Psychologist who trains cops to shoot first, ask questions later makes big money at their trials
A behavioral psychologist who trains law enforcement officers to shoot first and deal with the consequences later is profiting mightily when they go to trial and he is called upon to testify on their behalf, reports the New York Times.
Relying upon his own research — that an editor for The American Journal of Psychology calls “pseudoscience” — Dr. William J. Lewinski offers seminars to law enforcement departments around the country, telling police officers they can be shot by a suspect within a quarter of a second should the suspect be armed.
Should an officer go to trial, or face a grand jury indictment, Lewinski is there to defend their actions for $1,000 an hour.
While a string of high profile incidents involving police shooting unarmed suspects has roiled the country, Lewinski continues to tell cops that they can’t wait to act or they may end up dead.
According to attorneys who have faced off with him in court, Lewinski is consistent in his opinion that police acted properly, even when videos and forensics evidence say otherwise.
“He won’t give an inch on cross-examination,” explained Elden Rosenthal, a lawyer who represented the family of James Jahar Perez, killed in the 2004 Portland police shooting. Rosenthal added that attorneys defending cops can count on Lewinski to help their client’s case, saying “They know that he’s battle-hardened in the courtroom, so you know exactly what you’re getting.”
According to attorneys, Lewinski is adept at giving long and winding answers to questions put to him, creating doubt within the minds of jurors and leading them to believe that the officer truly believed he or she was imminent danger of being shot or assaulted.
In the past several years, Lewinski has offered his expert testimony in a multitude of nationally watched cases, including the shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, immortalized in the film Fruitvale Station.
Lewinski is currently assisting in the defense of two Albuquerque police officers charged with the murder of a homeless man accused of camping illegally.
Because Lewinski — who received his doctorate from the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, an accredited but alternative Cincinnati school — published his private research in police magazines instead of behavioral science journals, fellow psychologists say that his conclusions are questionable since it his work has not been peer-reviewed.
Despite that, law enforcement agencies from sheriff’s departments to the Justice Department are willing to pay the doctor thousands of dollars for clinics and seminars on use of force.
Said John Burton, a California lawyer who specializes in police misconduct cases, “People die because of this stuff. When they give these cops a pass, it just ripples through the system.”