Setting the Standard in Training and Research

Resilient Societies

Dr. Bill Sandel headshot

Dr. Bill Sandel, ALERRT Center

In recent years, law enforcement agencies nationwide have identified the need for effective standardized training in responding to active shooter events. Since 2002, Texas State University has been home to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center — an organization recognized as setting the national standard in response training for active-attack events. The ALERRT Center has provided training to more than 130,000 law enforcement professionals across the country in how to safely and effectively respond to active attacks. In addition to training, ALERRT acts as a research center producing comprehensive and wide-ranging knowledge about law enforcement. The center’s work combines these perspectives: in-depth training and after-action lessons as well as data-driven, research-based understanding to address the needs of law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve. Dr. Bill Sandel is the Research Specialist at ALERRT and a graduate of the School of Criminal Justice who uses quantitative methods to study the interactions between law enforcement and the public.

Sandel’s doctoral research is rooted in community oriented policing, a perspective that brings police, local officials and community leaders together to identify and evaluate community problems that can lead to criminal activity. This style of policing helps to build trust and rapport between police and community members. To better serve this relationship, Sandel’s recent research examines the public’s perception of police use-of-force events. In the course of working to protect their communities, police often find themselves in unsafe situations that require the use of force to resolve problems. These situations are always complicated, and often there is more than one way of looking at a use-of-force incident. Building a body of knowledge about the situational factors that lead to police use of force, and that affect the public’s understanding of when and why such events occur, can help strengthen the trust between law enforcement and their communities.



of U.S. residents aged 16 or older had interactions with police in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.



of residents who had contact with police experienced threats or use of force.


Sandel conducted national surveys with over 800 law enforcement officials and nearly 500 members of the public, presenting them with police use-of-force scenarios and asking them to determine if the action was reasonable based on the information provided.

“The first thing that jumped out in the responses was that members of law enforcement always wanted more information about the situations,” Sandel explains. “We literally had officers asking how tall the grass was in certain scenarios, and you didn’t really see that coming from the public.” The research looks at situational factors like the number of officers present, the location or movement of officers and suspects, the weapons involved and more to determine what factors influence perceptual variables: reasonableness, punitiveness, trust, threat level, etc. A key finding of the study is that police officers and citizens broadly agree upon what situational factors influence their perceptions of police use-of-force. The study is valuable because it can help inform departmental policy and ensure that officers understand when the use of force will be considered reasonable by other officers, the public, legal precedent or a grand jury, as well as helping law enforcement craft messaging to promote transparency and understanding for the public.

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