‘Quiet eye’ sporting technique trialled on police recruits to improve marksmanship

Updated January 14, 2016 14:15:12

Police recruits in Western Australia are trialing a training technique used by elite athletes to improve their marksmanship.

The technique is called “quiet eye” and was pioneered to help pro basketball players — improving one team’s penalty shots by 40 per cent in one season.

As part of the training, subjects are taught to slow their reaction speeds and block out visual distractions.

Edith Cowan University Associate Professor Carter said this would allow police recruits to better process the split-second decisions involved in firing a gun.

“I can think of far fewer situations that would be more stressful than being shot at,” he said.

“So the idea with the quiet eye technique is that your first shot, you invest the 400 milliseconds longer before you take your shot and your first shot is much more likely to land on target.”

The project is being funded by the Australian Army and trialled at Perth’s Police Academy in a bid to reduce the time it takes to train soldiers to become proficient marksmen.

Dr Carter said as part of the trial, they were strapping officers with a set of high-tech goggles.

He said the officers were using a hardware called Dikablis Pro, which is an eye tracker.

“It has three cameras on a headset and we use computer software to track the pupil and the iris on each eye and we can extrapolate from that what a person is looking at,” Dr Carter said.

Dr Carter and the researchers are assessing whether a skill employed by elite basketball players can improve the marksmanship of police recruits.

I can think of far few situations that would be more stressful than being shot at.
Associate Professor Owen Carter, Edith Cowan University

“The quiet eye technique has been validated in virtually any elite sport where you have to take aim,” Dr Carter said.

“For instance, the University of Calgary’s women’s basketball team used the quiet eye technique to improve their penalty shots by 40 per cent in one season.

“The great benefit is for novice marksmen — they’re on a continuum from novice to expert, our hope is that this will accelerate their acquisition of mastery.”

New skills useful for recruits facing a ‘more dynamic environment’

Senior Sergeant Dale Robinson, the officer in charge of the academy’s shooting range, said the majority of participants in the research had never shot a firearm before.

“So it is a basic introduction to use of firearms, and then by the end of their four-week tactical training they should have a reasonable and accurate ability to shoot a firearm,” Sergeant Robinson said.

After four weeks and just 400 rounds, the recruits are expected to master the use of their pistols.

“The hope is that the information that comes from the research improves our training delivery and the tools that we provide recruits,” she said.

“It may affect the diagnostics we use to teach the draw, the sight picture and have implications for how they shoot.”

Inspector Gordon Fairman, who heads up operational skills at WA Police Academy, said it was essential that officers understood how to use their weapons because of the catastrophic implications if they got it wrong.

“Use of force is that very, very small bit at the end of continuum but the ramifications for not getting that right can be potentially catastrophic.”

Inspector Fairman said the vast majority of weapons training procedures have not been updated for more than 40 years.

“Weapons training for police has not really changed much over the last 40 or 50 years, and most of it is post World War II or post Vietnam target shooting.

“What you find now is that is a much more dynamic environment, so we are looking at finding a more scientific or academically rigorous process to measure the outcomes of our training, this is a technological advance that allows us to do this.”

Topics: shooting, police, army, sports-organisations, basketball, perth-6000

First posted January 14, 2016 14:12:33

Originally published at www.abc.net.au on January 14, 2016.