Coping with uncertainty:police strategies for resilient decision making and action implementation

van den Heuvel, Claudia and Alison, Laurence and Power, Nicola (2014) Coping with uncertainty:police strategies for resilient decision making and action implementation. Cognition, Technology and Work, 16 (1). pp. 25-45. ISSN 1435-5558

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This study uses a hostage negotiation setting to demonstrate how a team of strategic police officers can utilize specific coping strategies to minimize uncertainty at different stages of their decision-making in order to foster resilient decision-making to effectively manage a high-risk critical incident. The presented model extends the existing research on coping with uncertainty by (1) applying the RAWFS heuristic (Lipshitz and Strauss in Organ Behav Human Decis Process 69:149–163, 1997) of individual decision-making under uncertainty to a team critical inci- dent decision-making domain; (2) testing the use of various coping strategies during ‘‘in situ’’ team decision-making by using a live simulated hostage negotiation exercise; and (3) including an additional coping strategy (‘‘reflection-in- action’’; Scho ̈n in The reflective practitioner: how profes- sionals think in action. Temple Smith, London, 1983) that aids naturalistic team decision-making. The data for this study were derived from a videoed strategic command meeting held within a simulated live hostage training event; these video data were coded along three themes: (1) decision phase; (2) uncertainty management strategy; and (3) decision implemented or omitted. Results illustrate that, when assessing dynamic and high-risk situations, teams of police officers cope with uncertainty by relying on ‘‘reduction’’ strategies to seek additional information and iteratively update these assessments using ‘‘reflection-in- action’’ (Scho ̈n 1983) based on previous experience. They subsequently progress to a plan formulation phase and use ‘‘assumption-based reasoning’’ techniques in order to mentally simulate their intended courses of action (Klein et al. 2007), and identify a preferred formulated strategy through ‘‘weighing the pros and cons’’ of each option. In the unlikely event that uncertainty persists to the plan execution phase, it is managed by ‘‘reduction’’ in the form of relying on plans and standard operating procedures or by ‘‘forestalling’’ and intentionally deferring the decision while contingency planning for worst-case scenarios.

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Journal Article
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Cognition, Technology and Work
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25 Feb 2016 11:54
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 01:59