Critical Incident Amnesia

"Critical Incident Amnesia", also known as "Critical Stress Amnesia" - may have an impact on the analysis of incidents in terms of participant recollection.

On the 23rd March 2011, it was reported in the press that during a Coronial Inquiry, a Queensland Police Officer (Senior Constable Craig Myles) claimed he had Tasered a man, who had become deceased during the Tasering, only 8 times (with 50,000 volts) yet the actual Taser used showed it had been used 28 times.

A witness, giving evidence from Baltimore in the United States (Mr Richard Wyant - who holds a Taser licence) claimed that the Officer may have been suffering from

"it was not uncommon for a police officer to forget the number of times he pulled the trigger of a Taser or a gun".

Mr Wyant further commented  "the only time he had cause to use a Taser he was affected by critical stress amnesia".

"I'd swear I pulled the trigger twice, but I really pulled it five times," he said.

Carl Holden comments:
This reported phenomenon makes a geat deal of sense, particularly from the number of Pilots and others I have interviewed over the years in relation to Aircraft Incidents and Accidents.

This should be factored in to the consideration of statements made immediately post-incident, and probably into the future, if the person is still traumatised by their experience. This Trauma can last for years.

To quote from The Official Journal of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors

"Officers who encounter an extremely stressful situation will consistently exhibit difficulty in transferring information into long term memory. Particular memory related phenomenon in traumatic situations include:

During the actual incident there is usually a "sensory overload" combined with a "fixation" on some particular aspect of the critical incident, often to the exclusion of all else".

"After a healthy night's sleep there is usually a "memory recovery" which will result in the remembering the majority of what occurred, and this memory is probably the most "pure."

Within 72 hours the final and most complete form of memory will occur, but it will be at least partially "reconstructed" (and therefore somewhat "contaminated") after the inevitable process of integrating available information from all other sources (media)".



Links to Critical Incident Amnesia:

Cop's shooting memory can be faulty - News Ltd

The Physiological Basis and the Implications of Memory Loss During Extreme Survival Stress Situations - UK Register of Trauma Specialists



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