Police use of deadly force: Research and reform
ABSTRACT Police use of deadly force first became a major public issue in the 1960s, when many urban riots were precipitated immediately by police killings of citizens. Since that time scholars have studied deadly force extensively, police practitioners have made significant reforms in their policies and practices regarding deadly force, and the United States Supreme Court has voided a centuries-old legal principle that authorized police in about one-half the states to use deadly force to apprehend unarmed, nonviolent, fleeing felony suspects. This essay reviews and interprets these developments.
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ABSTRACT: The “veil-of-darkness” method is an innovative and low-cost approach that circumvents many of the benchmarking issues that arise in testing for racial profiling. Changes in natural lighting are used to establish a presumptively more race-neutral benchmark on the assumption that after dark, police suffer an impaired ability to detect motorists’ race. Applying the veil-of-darkness method to vehicle stops by the Syracuse (NY) police between 2006 and 2009 and examining differences among officers assigned to specialized traffic units and crime-suppression units, we found that African Americans were no more likely to be stopped during daylight than during darkness, indicating no racial bias.Police Quarterly 03/2012; 15(1):92-111. · 0.68 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Research Summary Police scholars and public policymakers throughout generations have sought to identify reliable correlates of police misconduct. Despite these efforts, general statements as to the etiology and epidemiology of police misconduct remain inconclusive, in part because of the inconsistent definitions of misconduct and the difficulty of obtaining the data required to make such statements. This research attempts to fill these gaps through a comparison of the personal and career histories of all 1,543 officers who were involuntarily separated from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for cause during 1975–1996 with a randomly selected sample of their police academy classmates who served honorably. The study uses confidential NYPD files as its major data sources, which include extensive biographical and career information. The study finds that career-ending misconduct rarely occurs in the NYPD and that the types of misconduct do not match well with existing definitions. Several factors emerge as significant predictors of misconduct, including officer race, minimal education, records of prior criminality and prior poor employment, failure to advance in the NYPD, and histories of citizen complaints.Policy Implications This study shows that existing definitions of police misconduct are difficult to apply to actual cases of police malpractice, which leads the authors to create a new eight-category classification scheme. The rarity of misconduct, especially on-duty abuse, confirms prior research indicating that most police officers do their jobs without engaging in serious malpractice. These findings suggest that the NYPD has become better behaved as it has become more diverse along race and gender dimensions and that the link between black officers and misconduct might be explained by persistent “tokenism.” The findings related to race have important implications for continued efforts to build racially representative police departments. Personal history findings highlight the importance of conducting background investigations that disqualify candidates with arrest records and employment disciplinary histories, whereas the inverse relationship between college education and misconduct provides strong support for continued emphasis on pre- and post-employment educational requirements.Criminology & Public Policy 01/2009; 8(4).
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ABSTRACT: Research Summary According to TASER International, nearly 10,000 police departments in the United States have deployed the TASER as a less lethal force alternative in some capacity. Despite the TASER's increasing popularity, serious questions have been raised about the device's physiological side effects; in particular, Amnesty International has reported that more than 300 people have died after being subjected to the TASER. Although a growing body of research has examined the physiological effects of the TASER on animals and healthy human volunteers in laboratory settings, there has been virtually no empirical analysis of “real-world” fatal and nonfatal TASER cases simultaneously. This article examines all media reports of TASER incidents from 2002 to 2006 through a comprehensive review of LexisNexis and New York Times archives. We compare TASER incidents in which a fatality occurred to TASER incidents in which a fatality did not occur and then employ multivariate analyses to identify the incident and suspect characteristics that are predictive of articles describing TASER-proximate deaths.Policy Implications Several suspect factors were significantly associated with the reporting of a fatal TASER incident, including drug use (but not alcohol), mental illness, and continued resistance. Multiple deployments of the TASER against a suspect was also associated with the likelihood of the article describing a fatality—especially if the suspect was emotionally disturbed—which raises the possibility that the risk of multiple shocks might not be uniform for all suspects. More research is needed to explore the relationship between mental illness, drug use (illicit or therapeutic), continued resistance, and increased risk of death. In the meantime, police departments should develop specific policies and training governing the use of multiple TASER shocks against individuals who could be in these vulnerable physiological and psychological states.Criminology & Public Policy 11/2009; 8(4).