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Police researchers have devoted a considerable amount of empirical attention to testing the impact college education has on police performance. The counterargument to the education debate is that experience, in learning the police craft, is what contributes to differences in performance. The current study adds to both lines of research by examining the impact of education and experience on one of the core features of the police role: the use of coercion. The findings indicate that varying levels of education and experience are related to differences in the use of coercion in encounters with citizens. Encounters involving officers with any college education result in significantly less verbal force compared to those with a high school education. However, only those encounters involving officers with a 4-year degree result in significantly less physical force. Finally, encounters involving officers with greater experience result in less verbal and physical force.
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Criminal Justice and Behavior
DOI: 10.1177/0093854806290239
2007; 34; 179 Criminal Justice and Behavior
Eugene A. Paoline, III and William Terrill
Police Education, Experience, and the Use of Force
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University of Central Florida
Michigan State University
Police researchers have devoted a considerable amount of empirical attention to testing the impact college education has on
police performance. The counterargument to the education debate is that experience, in learning the police craft, is what con-
tributes to differences in performance. The current study adds to both lines of research by examining the impact of educa-
tion and experience on one of the core features of the police role: the use of coercion. The findings indicate that varying levels
of education and experience are related to differences in the use of coercion in encounters with citizens. Encounters involv-
ing officers with any college education result in significantly less verbal force compared to those with a high school educa-
tion. However, only those encounters involving officers with a 4-year degree result in significantly less physical force.
Finally, encounters involving officers with greater experience result in less verbal and physical force.
Keywords: police; college education; experience; coercion; use of force
ducating police officers beyond a high school diploma has been a focal point of dis-
cussions about police since the beginning of the professional reform movement in the
early 1900s. The supposition is that, in some way, college education relates to better police
performance. Thus, for more than 30 years, researchers have attempted to disentangle the
impact that college education has on police officers. This work has documented notewor-
thy differences between college-educated officers and their less educated peers, especially
in terms of the way they relate to citizens (Cascio, 1977; Cohen & Chaiken, 1973; Kappeler,
Sapp, & Carter, 1992), their attitudinal approaches to police work (Dalley, 1975; Roberg,
1978; Shernock, 1992; Smith, Locke, & Fenster, 1970), their communication skills (Carter,
Sapp, & Stephens, 1989; Sterling, 1974; Worden, 1990), their daily commitment to polic-
ing (Cascio, 1977; Cohen & Chaiken, 1973), and their evaluations from supervisors (Carter
et al., 1989; Finnegan, 1976). College education continues to be a focus of police research,
despite the fact that a 2-year or 4-year degree is currently not required by most municipal
police departments in the United States (Roberg & Bonn, 2004).
Countering the education argument is the contention that experience is the greatest teacher
for a police officer. The notion here is that policing is best learned “on the job,” and neces-
sary performance skills are developed by handling the various situational aspects of policing
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, Vol. 34, No. 2, February 2007 179-196
DOI: 10.1177/0093854806290239
© 2007 American Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
AUTHORS’ NOTE: This article is based on data from the Project on Policing Neighborhoods, supported by
Grant No. 95-IJ-CX-0071 by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of
Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official
position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Correspondence should be addressed to Eugene A.
Paoline, III, Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Stu dies, University of Central Florida, P.O. Box
161600, Orlando, FL 32816-1600; e-mail:
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over time. Proponents of this line of reasoning, such as Bayley and Bittner (1997), explain
that “policing is more like a craft than a science, in that officers believe that they have impor-
tant lessons to learn that are not reducible to principle and are not being taught through for-
mal education” (pp. 128-129). This suggests that differences in police performance are
attributable to variation in experience.
The current study seeks to shed light on both lines of research by examining the relative
impact of education and experience on an area that has yet to be a centerpiece of previous
empirical inquiries, despite the fact that it is one of the central features of policing—the use
of coercion.
Moreover, unlike previous research that has primarily examined physical
and/or inappropriate force based on official data, we use observational data and concentrate
on the full range of force (i.e., levels and types) that officers are likely to use in the course
of their day-to-day duties. In highlighting the merits of observational research, Worden and
Catlin (2002) state:
Direct observation enables researchers to examine incidents of the sort that may never or sel-
dom appear in official records and to construct measures of key variables based on informa-
tion that is recorded systematically (i.e., with respect to every incident, using the same criteria)
by a neutral party. (p. 93)
The initial push toward a college education requirement for police was spearheaded by
August Vollmer at the beginning of the professional reform era of policing (Walker, 1977).
Vollmer’s attempt to single-handedly upgrade educational levels of ineffective and ineffi-
cient police officers progressed slowly (Shernock, 1992), and his national influence was not
fully recognized until his work done as part of the National Commission on Law Observance
and Enforcement (1931; also known as the Wickersham Commission; Walker, 1977). The
Wickersham Commission suggested, in increasing the standards of police officers, that per-
sonnel should be equipped with a college education. However, as pointed out by Carter
et al. (1989), the suggestion to educate police officers was just that, a suggestion for deal-
ing with the complexities of crime, lacking a strong follow-up by police departments.
Nonetheless, police reformers, police practitioners, and politicians alike continued to advo-
cate for the merits of a college education for police personnel.
Some 30 years after the work of the Wickersham Commission, the issue of a college edu-
cation was revisited by the 1967 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the
Administration of Justice, which examined crime and criminal justice in American society.
In addressing ways to improve all components of the criminal justice system, the commis-
sion made the following recommendation for police departments: “The ultimate aim of all
police departments should be that all personnel with general enforcement powers have bac-
calaureate degrees” (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of
Justice, 1968, p. 279). This recommendation differed from previous ones in that a course
of action soon followed with the passage of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets
Act of 1968 (Shernock, 1992), which in turn provided monies to fund criminal justice
students in the form of the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP; Eskridge, 1989).
LEEP was a major boost to the educational reform started some 60 years before, as it pro-
vided federal loans and scholarships to practitioners of criminal justice to attend college
(Carter & Sapp, 1990).
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Soon after, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals
(1973) chartered a course of action for law enforcement educational standards and LEEP
funds by setting a rough 2-year (2 years of college work requirement), 5-year (3 years of col-
lege work requirement), and 10-year (a 4-year baccalaureate degree requirement) plan for
entry-level policing employees. Although these goals established a plan for police departments
to improve the numbers of college-experienced officers, the quality of such education was
beginning to be scrutinized (Roberg & Bonn, 2004). The National Advisory Commission
on Higher Education for Police Officers criticized the fact that many college courses were
nothing more than the technical training found in police academies (Sherman and the
National Advisory Commission on Higher Education for Police Officers, 1978). Moreover,
this commission recommended that education should be broader than simply police science,
focusing more on social science education that could be applied to the policing occupation.
In short, the commission wanted a more traditional approach to college education and less of
a technical police focus.
Although there has been a long history of advocacy for educating American police officers,
it has yet to become a bona fide occupational qualification (Carter & Sapp, 1990; Carter,
Sapp, & Stephens, 1988; Roberg & Bonn, 2004). Much of this has to do with discussions
that such a requirement would possibly discriminate against minority candidates (i.e., non-
Whites), despite evidence to the contrary (i.e., non-White officers nationally have higher lev-
els of education compared to White officers; Carter et al., 1989). Hickman and Reaves (2003),
in a Bureau of Justice Statistics study of local law enforcement agencies, report that nation-
ally only 1% of police agencies require a 4-year college degree to be hired as a police officer,
whereas 6% require some college, and 8% require a 2-year degree. Nonetheless, many police
departments have made college experience an informal requirement for hiring and advance-
ment (Carter & Sapp, 1990). Finally, contemporary community policing philosophies that
stress the need for officers to embrace a broader role orientation and work collaboratively
with citizens (and other local government agencies that are responsible for community prob-
lems) have been hypothesized to be best suited for those with a college education (Carter &
Sapp, 1992; Paoline, Myers, & Worden, 2000; Sherwood, 2000).
The push for higher education in policing has always rested on the assumption that col-
lege experience would result in a “better” police officer. This was especially true during the
professional reform of police when much scrutiny was placed on the corrupt and inefficient
officer (Walker, 1977). The exact connection between college education and a better police
officer was never clearly delineated, although it was implied that those with college expe-
rience would be more responsible and better suited for the complex problem of crime
(Carter et al., 1989). It was not until the LEEP era in the 1970s that researchers began to
empirically examine the impact (i.e., potential benefits) of college education in policing.
A series of police studies conducted primarily in the 1970s, using a number of different
research strategies, have documented some of the differences that exist between college-
educated officers and their less educated counterparts. This work has produced a few note-
worthy performance-related differences between those with and without a college education.
For example, college-educated officers have been found to have higher levels of citizen satis-
faction ratings, as well as fewer citizen complaints, compared to their less educated peers
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(Cascio, 1977; Cohen & Chaiken, 1973; Kappeler et al., 1992). College-educated officers
have also been found to receive higher ratings from their superiors (Carter et al., 1989;
Finnegan, 1976), as well as fewer injuries, preventable accidents, and fewer sick days
(Cascio, 1977; Cohen & Chaiken, 1973). With respect to their approaches in the field, col-
lege-educated officers have been noted to be less authoritarian (Dalley, 1975; Smith et al.,
1970), place a higher value on ethical behavior (Shernock, 1992), have more open belief sys-
tems (i.e., be less dogmatic) (Roberg, 1978), and be better verbal communicators (Carter
et al., 1989; Sterling, 1974; Worden, 1990). The results of these studies tend to suggest that
there are noticeable differences, and potentially positive policing attributes, associated with
college education.
The debate over the virtues of college education, as well as the need for police depart-
ments to make it a formal requirement for hiring and promotion, are still receiving schol-
arly attention (Baro & Burlingame, 1999; Carlan & Byxbe, 2000; Decker & Huckabee,
2002; Eskridge, 1989; Kakar, 1998; Krimmel, 1996; Polk & Armstrong, 2001; Roberg &
Bonn, 2004; Shernock, 1992). In disentangling the impacts of college experience more
clearly, researchers have argued for more rigorous explorations of education, as well as the
dependent variable of interest (i.e., usually an attitude, behavior, or both; Eskridge, 1989;
Hudzik, 1978; Sherman & The National Advisory Commission on Higher Education for
Police Officers, 1978; Worden, 1990). Other police researchers have pointed out some of
the methodological flaws in past studies of education and performance, as they have relied
on official departmental data, supervisory assessments, citizen evaluations, or individual
officer perceptions (Eskridge, 1989; Shernock, 1992). Worden (1990) criticizes prior stud-
ies for their inconsistent findings, as well as their small sample sizes. In a different vein,
others, such as Baro and Burlingame (1999), argue that college education is really not
needed for police officers because of the way that most police departments operate (i.e.,
military model). The authors also note that preservice and in-service training may be more
effective than a college education. Furthermore, Eskridge (1989) points out that college-
educated officers are more susceptible to on-the-job boredom, as well as hostility from
noneducated senior officers. These points clearly illustrate that the college education debate
is still very much a part of police inquiries.
The counterargument to the college education debate is that experience is what really
matters. In fact, this is not just reserved for policing circles, as the “book smarts” versus
“street smarts” dichotomy cuts across many disciplines and occupations. Proponents of
experience, and the “policing as a craft” argument (Bayley & Bittner, 1997), focus on the
benefits of repetitive exposure to the various situational contingencies of policing. Given
that the most powerful explanatory factors of police behavior are the situational charac-
teristics of police-citizen encounters (Riksheim & Chermak, 1993), it makes sense that
varying levels of situational experiences will result in differences in the way encounters
are handled by officers. The overall notion is that policing cannot be taught in a class-
room (either college or a training academy) but must be learned on the streets over time.
Bayley and Garofalo (1989), in a study of New York City patrol officers, found that expe-
rienced officers were identified by their peers as being the most skilled at dealing with
conflict in encounters with citizens. The authors even contend that to the extent that
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police departments teach officers ways to manage violence, “skilled” officers should be
the ones that conduct the training. What proponents of police experience have not done,
mainly because more experienced (and older) officers historically have not been college
educated, is to examine the extent to which education plus experience translates into dif-
ferences in performance.
The current study seeks to add to this body of knowledge by empirically examining
the impact of education on one of the most central features of the police role—the use
of coercion (Bittner, 1970). Although past studies have noted that college-educated offi-
cers are more likely to use “reasonable” force (Worden, 1996), are less likely to receive
citizen complaints for inappropriate policing (Cascio, 1977; Cohen & Chaiken, 1973),
and are less likely to fire their weapons (Fyfe, 1988), much less attention has been paid
to the routine use of coercion in day-to-day encounters with citizens. Moreover, within
studies of coercion, most have concentrated on physical and/or inappropriate force and
have only recently begun to consider the verbal aspect of coercion (see, e.g., Klinger,
1995; Terrill, 2001, 2005). This is critical considering Muir’s (1977) seminal enthno-
graphic study of what determines a “good” (i.e., professional) police officer. Muir
explained that a good police officer was a function of one’s ability to effectively manage
the use of coercion, much of which is verbal. According to Muir (1977), “coercion is a
means of controlling the conduct of others through threats to harm” (p. 37). Muir further
noted that in using coercion over citizens, “the professional response depended heavily
on talk” and this “characteristically involved teaching through talk” (pp. 144-145). It is
interesting that in the most comprehensive national study of police education, Carter
et al. (1989) found that college-educated officers have better communication skills in
dealing with the public.
The current inquiry, using observational data, captures the variation in the use of both ver-
bal and physical coercion in daily encounters with citizens as it relates to varying levels of
education and experience. Following the lead of past researchers (Hudzik, 1978; Kappeler
et al., 1992; Shernock, 1992; Worden, 1990) who acknowledge the disadvantages of a
dichotomous “college” or “no college” measure, or a continuous education measure (by
year) that assumes that each year contributes equally to more education, we distinguish
among officers with no college experience, some college experience, and those that have a
baccalaureate degree and higher. In addition, this study examines the impact and potential
interactive effects that police experience plays in the use of force encounter. As Bayley and
Bittner (1997) point out, “experience sharpens the ability to read potential violence in
an encounter,” and “the experienced officer has learned when to relax and when to attack”
(p. 121). This strongly suggests that experience affects the types and levels of coercion used
by police. The extent to which coercion is a function of education or experience, as well as
education plus experience, will be the focus of the current empirical inquiry. In sum, this
study examines (a) whether the impact of attending college versus obtaining a baccalaure-
ate degree are the same (compared to those with only a high school education) with respect
to the levels and types of force that officers use in encounters with citizens and (b) what
role officer experience plays within this process.
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This study uses two data sets (i.e., systematic social observation [SSO] of patrol officers
and in-person interviews of those officers) from the Project on Policing Neighborhoods
(POPN), which examined policing in Indianapolis, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida,
during the summers of 1996 and 1997, respectively.
Patrol observation was conducted in
12 patrol beats in each city. The sample of beats was matched as closely as possible across
the two sites according to the degree of socioeconomic distress (measured as the sum of the
percentages of families with children headed by a single female, the adult population that
is unemployed, and the population below 50% of the poverty level)—an index similar to one
used by Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls (1997). The sample excluded those beats with the
lowest socioeconomic distress (i.e., the most affluent areas); observations were concentrated
in areas where police citizen interactions are most frequent.
Observation was conducted according to a SSO methodology. SSO systematizes field
methods for teams of researchers who observe the object of study (e.g., police) in its natural
setting. Researchers are trained to record events as they see and hear them and not rely on
others to describe or interpret events. In effect, SSO involves the development of well-
specified procedures that can be duplicated by many individuals rather than relying on the
observations of a single researcher. Observers are trained to rely on similar cues when mea-
suring varying forms of behavior (e.g., suspect demeanor) in an attempt to ensure consis-
tency (see Mastrofski et al., 1998, for a detailed description).
Field observers were graduate students and honors undergraduates with a semester’s
training in systematic observation of the police. As part of this training, observers pretested
the protocol in the field while conducting five training rides with a local department will-
ing to permit observation. In addition to the training received at the home universities,
observers conducted a training ride on arriving at each research site to acclimate themselves
to the city, beat boundaries, and the organizational structure of the department.
POPN field observers accompanied officers throughout a matched sample of work shifts
in each of the selected beats (approximately 240 hr per beat). Busier times of the day and
week were oversampled. Observers took brief field notes and spent the next day tran-
scribing them into detailed accounts and coding them according to a SSO protocol. These
researchers noted officers’ encounters with the public, defined as face-to-face communica-
tion between officers and citizens that was more than a passing greeting. In total, field
observers recorded contact with approximately 6,500 citizens in Indianapolis and 5,500 cit-
izens in St. Petersburg, with events ranging from less than a minute to several hours. The
current study focuses on the 3,356 encounters with people whom police or other citizens
present placed in the role of suspect (wrongdoers, peace disturbers, or persons about whom
complaints were received).
Data on officer characteristics were taken from in-person interviews that were conducted
during officers’ regular shifts at each district station in Indianapolis (i.e., north, south, east,
and west) and at central headquarters in St. Petersburg. Trained researchers, who did not
conduct field observations, were responsible for administering the structured survey instru-
ment that was designed to obtain information on officers’ personal characteristics, training
and education, work experience, perceptions of their beats, and attitudes toward the police
role. The interview consisted of a mix of questions posed by interviewers and checklists
completed by respondents in the interviewers’ presence. For example, when queried about
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the relative importance of the law enforcement role, officers were provided with a checklist
that contained response categories, such as agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree some-
what, and disagree strongly. Participation was voluntary, and identification numbers were
assigned for each respondent to ensure confidentiality. Of the 426 officers assigned to patrol
in Indianapolis, 398 were surveyed, producing a completion rate of 93%. In St. Petersburg,
240 out of a possible 246 patrol officers were interviewed, a completion rate of 98%.
Dependent variable. From an outcome perspective (i.e., dependent variable), we were
primarily interested in the routine use of coercion in day-to-day encounters with citizens,
as opposed to the inappropriate application of force. That is, we wished to better under-
stand the manner in which the police resolve conflicts with citizens by relying on varying
forceful tactics, which include both verbal and physical actions. Within this context, force
was defined as acts that threaten or inflict physical harm on citizens. Verbal force included
commands and threats. A command involved a statement by an officer that was in the form
of an order (e.g., wait right here, drop the knife, leave now); threats involved a command
followed by an explicit or implicit intended consequence for not complying (e.g., drop the
knife or you are going to get maced, if I have to tell you again you are going in). Physical
force included any form of physical restraint or application, including pat down searchers,
firm grips, handcuffing, pain compliance techniques, takedown maneuvers, and impact meth-
ods. Pat downs involved instances when an officer physically touched a suspect as part of
a cursory search; handcuffing involved placing restraints on a suspect’s wrists; a firm grip
included an officer grabbing a suspect in a forceful manner with a tight grip; pain com-
pliance techniques involved holds that cause pain to a specific body part (e.g., hammer-
lock, wristlock, finger grip, carotid control, and bar arm control); takedown maneuvers
included instances when suspects were thrown, pushed, or shoved to the ground, against a
wall, against a car or any other surface (leg sweeps also included); and impact methods
included hitting a suspect with the hands, fists, feet, legs, or any other part of the body
(e.g., slapping, punching, kicking), as well as the use of any item that was not part of the
body (e.g., flashlights, batons, police radios, stun guns, macing).
For each analysis, we use the highest level of force applied in each encounter. Furthermore,
there is no attempt to distinguish whether the application of force satisfied a particular stan-
dard (e.g., excessive versus not excessive). Although certainly worthwhile, such an inquiry
is an entirely different research endeavor (see, for instance, Adams, 1996). By limiting the
analysis in this way, no judgment is made as to whether police overused or underused
force in any instance. We can, however, characterize patterns in the distribution of force
and speak to questions about economy in the use of force, which Bittner (1970) noted as
the defining value of contemporary Western society for good policing.
Independent variables. Several different control variables are considered in the multivari-
ate analyses that follow so as to isolate the effects of the primary variables of interest: educa-
tion and experience. To ensure a properly specified, yet parsimonious, model, we include
those variables that have most consistently been found to be predictors of force in previous
studies and those that have garnered the greatest theoretical interest (see Adams, 1996;
Garner, Maxwell, & Heraux, 2002; Terrill, 2005). Three variable clusters are included in the
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analytical model. The first involves officer characteristics, which includes the two primary
variables of interest (i.e., education, experience), as well as gender and race. We hypothesize
that greater levels of education and experience will lead to less force. Conversely, male offi-
cers are expected to resort to higher levels of force. The hypothesized effect for officer race
is unspecified given the inconsistency of prior research in this area (see Terrill, 2001).
The second grouping contains suspect presentation measures (i.e., displays of resistance,
conflict with other citizens on the scene, possession of a weapon, evidence present,
occurrence, alcohol use, and demeanor) and sociodemographic characteristics (i.e., gender,
race, age, and wealth). With the exception of age and wealth, each of these measures is coded
so as to predict a positive relationship. For instance, it is hypothesized that officers will be
more coercive toward suspects who are resistant, arrested, male, non-White, and disrespect-
ful, as well as those who show conflict toward others at the scene, have a weapon, display evi-
dence of wrongdoing, and display signs of alcohol or drug use. Conversely, suspect age and
wealth are coded so as to posit an inverse relationship; officers are expected to use less force
on older suspects and those with a higher level of wealth.
The final cluster contains general encounter characteristics, including the number of indi-
viduals on the scene (officers and bystanders), the initiating party, problem type, and site.
Both the number of officers and citizen bystanders present on the scene of an encounter can
influence the likelihood or level of police force, although the direction of the effect is open
to interpretation. In one respect, additional officers may lead to increased force, as the
observed officer may be inclined to raise the level knowing he or she has sufficient backup
should the suspect ultimately resist. Conversely, backup support from fellow officers may
lower the level of force as the observed officer may feel less of a need to take control of the
suspect, as others are on the scene to help out should the suspect increase the level of resis-
tance. Similar effects may take shape in terms of bystanders. As the number of citizens
increase, an officer may feel the need to demonstrate being in control by applying more
force. However, additional bystanders also mean an increased number of potential witnesses
to the force being applied.
Furthermore, it was hypothesized that when the encounter was officer initiated, police
legitimacy would be lower than when the officer was invited or called on (Reiss, 1971).
Consequently, in officer-initiated situations, police may be quicker to assert their authority
and to do it more forcefully. The type of problem is included to account for those cases most
often associated with an increased likelihood of force (see Bayley & Garofalo, 1989; Fyfe,
1988). Finally, differences between the two departments were hypothesized. Indianapolis
management stressed an aggressive get-tough policy designed around crackdowns and aggres-
sive stops. By contrast, St. Petersburg officials emphasized problem solving and community
organizing to a greater extent. As a result, it was expected that Indianapolis officers would
resort to force more readily. Variable descriptions and coding schemes are offered in Table 1,
followed by descriptive statistics in Table 2.
The first set of analyses examines the distribution of force across varying levels of edu-
cation. Simple cross-tabulations detail how often officers of different educational levels
(high school, some college, and bachelor’s degree and higher) used any type of force
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(verbal and/or physical). At this simple bivariate level, there is a significant difference in
force usage by educational level (x
= 22.706, p = .000). As seen in Table 3, the primary dif-
ference lies between the high school and college categories. Although 67.8% of the
encounters involving officers with a high school education resulted in a forceful outcome,
the percentage dropped to 55.9 and 56.7 for those with some college and those with a
4-year degree, respectively. Table 4 breaks force down into the specific types used. Once
again, the chi-square shows a significant difference among varying education levels (x
27.440, p = .000). The key difference is found when looking across educational levels in
relation to verbal force. Although the verbal force percentages are nearly identical (35%)
for those encounters involving officers with some college or a bachelor’s degree, the per-
centage increases (46.6%) for those encounters involving officers with a high school edu-
cation. It is interesting that the rate of physical force is steady across all education levels.
Tables 5 and 6 present a similar force breakdown to those found in Tables 3 and 4, with
experience levels replacing education. For illustrative purposes, experience was coded into a
categorical variable based on extant research that has noted critical time periods in officer
development (Brown, 1988; Van Maanen, 1974). As Table 5 indicates, force is used least
TABLE 1: Description of Variables Predicting the Use of Force
Variable Effect Definition
Officer characteristics
Education Level of education: 0 =
high school
, 1 =
some college, but no
bachelor’s degree
, 2 =
bachelor’s degree or higher
Experience Years of experience
Male + 1 =
, 0 =
Non-White +/ 1 =
, 0 =
Suspect characteristics
Resistance + Level of suspect resistance: 1 =
, 2 =
, 3 =
4 =
, 5 =
Conflict + Suspect in conflict with another citizen on scene: 1 =
, 2 =
, 3 =
agitated verbal
, 4 =
threatened assault
, 5 =
Weapon + 1 =
suspect has weapon
, 0 =
all other
Evidence + Summative index (0 to 7), evidence of the target’s or requester’s
violation of the law
Arrest + 1 =
suspect is arrested
, 0 =
not arrested
Male + 1 =
, 0 =
Non-White + 1 =
, 0 =
Age 1 =
0 to 5 years
, 2 =
6 to 12 years
, 3 =
13 to 17 years
, 4 =
18 to
20 years
, 5 =
21 to 29 years
, 6 =
30 to 44 years
, 7 =
45 to 59 years
8 =
60 or more years
Wealth Observed level of wealth: 1 =
chronic poverty
, 2 =
, 3 =
4 =
above middle
Drug/alcohol + 1 =
suspect shows behavioral effects of drug/alcohol
, 0 =
all other
Demeanor + 1 =
suspect disrespectful to police in language or gesture
, 0 =
all other
Encounter characteristics
Number of officers +/ Number of officers on scene
Number of bystanders +/ Number of citizen bystanders on scene
Proactive encounter + 1 =
officer initiates encounter
, 0 =
all other
Problem type + 1 =
problem involves a dispute, traffic incident, or suspicious person
0 =
all other
Site + 1 =
, 0 =
St. Petersburg
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frequently (51%) in encounters involving officers with the most experience (11 or more years).
Somewhat surprising, though, force was most frequently used in encounters involving officers
with 3 to 5 years of experience, not those involving the most inexperienced officers (2 or less
years on the job; 65.3% vs. 59.0%, respectively). A further examination of these two less expe-
rienced groups in terms of verbal and physical force (Table 6) reveals a similar pattern to the
general force/no-force finding. Here, however, we see that the distinction is primarily at the
verbal force level (41.9% vs. 36.6%). All experience groups use physical force at a similar per-
centage (22% to 23%), except for the most experienced group (i.e., those with more than 10
years on the job), where force is used 15% of the time.
TABLE 2: Descriptive Statistics of All Model Variables
Variable Range
Dependent variable
Force 0 to 2 0.787 0.764
No force,
= 1,411
= 1,246
= 699
Officer characteristics
Education 0 to 2 1.275 0.699
Experience 0 to 32 7.732 5.968
Male 0 to 1 0.847 0.359
Non-White 0 to 1 0.207 0.405
Suspect characteristics
Resistance 1 to 5 1.208 0.655
Conflict 1 to 5 1.133 0.566
Weapon 0 to 1 0.015 0.122
Evidence 0 to 8 1.323 1.699
Arrest 0 to 1 0.110 0.313
Male 0 to 1 0.720 0.448
Non-White 0 to 1 0.632 0.482
Age 1 to 8 5.243 1.349
Wealth 1 to 4 2.236 0.561
Drug/alcohol 0 to 1 0.211 0.408
Demeanor 0 to 1 0.096 0.294
Encounter characteristics
Number of officers 1 to 26 2.214 1.609
Number of bystanders 1 to 99 4.204 5.627
Proactive encounter 0 to 1 0.447 0.497
Problem type 0 to 1 0.474 0.499
Site 0 to 1 0.560 0.496
TABLE 3: Distribution of No Force/Force by Education
High Some Bachelor’s
School College Degree
No force 157 32.2 644 44.1 610 43.3
Force 330 67.8 815 55.9 800 56.7
487 1,459 1,410
Chi-square = 22.706,
< .001
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We turned next to a set of multivariate analyses to examine the impact of education and
experience on force, while controlling for a host of other factors posited or previously
shown to influence force. Although bivariate analyses (i.e., cross-tabulations) provide an
initial assessment of those factors related to force, they do not allow for an assessment of
independent effects. In other words, it is quite possible that other factors, such as the extent
to which college-educated officers versus non-college-educated officers encounter resistant
suspects, may account for why education appears to matter. Properly accounting for such
potential influences requires a multivariate approach, which serves to isolate the effects of
each variable on force while statistically controlling other factors. In this sense, should the
bivariate findings remain (i.e., more education and experience reduces force usage) in the
multivariate analyses, one can have confidence that such a reduction in force usage can be
attributed to education and experience as opposed to some alternative factor (i.e., suspect
TABLE 5: Distribution of No Force/Force by Experience
0 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 11 or More
Years Years Years Years
No force 282 41.0 249 34.7 472 42.3 408 49.0
Force 406 59.0 469 65.3 645 57.7 425 51.0
688 718 1,117 833
Chi-square = 22.706,
< .001
TABLE 4: Distribution of Force Types by Education
High Some Bachelor’s
School College Degree
No force 157 32.2 644 44.1 610 43.3
Verbal 227 46.6 520 35.6 499 35.4
Physical 103 21.1 295 20.2 301 21.3
487 1,459 1,410
Chi-square = 27.440,
< .001
TABLE 6: Distribution of Force Types by Experience
0 to 2 3 to 5 6 to 10 11 or More
Years Years Years Years
No force 282 41.0 249 34.7 472 42.3 408 49.0
Verbal 252 36.6 301 41.9 393 35.2 300 36.0
Physical 154 22.4 168 23.4 252 22.6 125 15.0
688 718 1,117 833
Chi-square = 43.135,
< .001
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In each of these models, education is a categorical variable (coded high school, some
college, 4-year degree), whereas experience is an interval measure (coded by years of expe-
rience on the job). The first analysis uses an ordinal-level dependent measure of coercion
and assesses the role of education and experience both independently and jointly.
McKelvey and Zavoina (1975) have demonstrated the inherent weakness of using linear
regression techniques with ordinally ranked dependent measures. Specifically, they note
that such models underestimate the effects of independent variables on the dependent mea-
sure. As a result, the preferred model for an ordinally ranked dependent measure is the
ordered probit (Jarjoura, 1993). As shown in Table 7, two models are presented: a main
effects model where the effects of education and experience are examined separately and a
model that includes interaction terms to test whether a combination of education and expe-
rience affect the level of coercion applied.
Beginning with the main effects model in Table 7, we see that the educational variables
and the experience measure are both statistically significant (p < .05). More specifically,
using high school as the reference category, encounters involving officers with some college
TABLE 7: Ordered Probit of Police Use of Force—Main Effects
Main Effects Interaction Effects
Officer characteristics
Some college –0.166* .063 –0.143* .066
BA/BS –0.273* .065 –0.239* .067
Experience –0.014* .004 –0.014* .004
Some College X Experience 0.014 .008
BS/BA X Experience 0.001 .010
Male 0.072 .058 0.072 .058
Non-White 0.047 .051 0.039 .051
Suspect characteristics
Resistance 0.244* .038 0.244* .038
Conflict 0.131* .038 0.131* .038
Weapon 0.784* .170 0.791* .170
Evidence 0.063* .012 0.063* .012
Arrest 1.364* .075 1.365* .075
Male 0.259* .047 0.258* .047
Non-White 0.139* .044 0.144* .044
Age –0.095* .016 –0.095* .016
Wealth –0.144* .037 –0.141* .037
Drug/alcohol 0.362* .053 0.365* .053
Demeanor –0.040 .076 –0.039 .076
Encounter characteristics
Number of officers 0.065* .015 0.064* .015
Number of bystanders –0.002 .004 –0.002 .004
Proactive encounter 0.217* .044 0.212* .044
Problem type 0.043 .042 0.043 .042
Site 0.192* .044 0.183* .044
Threshold 1 0.044 .175 0.066 .175
Threshold 2 1.272 .176 1.294 .177
3,356 3,356
.253 .254
Note. b
represents the regression coefficient;
represents the standard error of each coefficient.
< .05.
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education, as well as encounters involving officers with a 4-year degree, are significantly
less likely to involve higher levels of force (b = –.166 and b = –.273, p < .05, respectively).
In addition, we see that encounters handled by officers with greater experience are also less
likely to lead to enhanced levels of force (b = –.014, p < .05). Turning to the interaction
effects model, we see that the joint effect of education and experience is not statistically sig-
nificant and offers virtually nothing to the overall model in terms of explained variance.
is not surprising that given previous use of force study findings (see, e.g., Garner et al., 2002;
Terrill & Mastrofski, 2002), a large number of the situational variables in the model are sta-
tistically significant.
Although the use of an ordinal measure of coercion taps into the levels of forcefulness
within a given individual encounter, it does not distinguish the effects of the independent
variables on the specific type of force used. As a result, we estimated a series of multinomial
logistic models, using no force as the reference category, to assess whether the impact of
education and experience differs by verbal and physical force. Because this variable takes on
more than two discrete values that cannot be naturally ordered, a multinomial logit model is
the appropriate statistical technique (Aldrich & Nelson, 1984; Long, 1997). Similar to the
ordered probit model, we estimated a main effects and interaction effects model.
As shown in the main effects model of Table 8, differing effects with respect to the role
of education and type of force used are uncovered. Although encounters involving officers
with either some college (b = –.555, p < .05) or a 4-year degree (b = –.728, p < .05) resulted
in significantly less verbal force than those with a high school education, only those
encounters involving officers with a bachelor’s degree (b = –.527, p < .05) resulted in sig-
nificantly less physical force.
In other words, in terms of verbal force, officers with any
college education, ranging from a single class to a 4-year degree, rely on verbal commands
and threats less often (holding all else constant) than officers with a high school education.
However, it is only those officers with a 4-year degree that derive the potential benefit of
handling police-suspect encounters with less physical force. Such a finding illustrates the
importance of conducting multivariate analyses and ensuring adequate control of alterna-
tive influences on forceful behavior. Examining force at the bivariate level only (Table 4)
shows that encounters involving officers with a 4-year degree were more likely to result in
physical force when compared to those involving officers with some college or a high
school degree (although the differences are small). However, by introducing and statisti-
cally accounting for a host of additional factors posited to influence force, the effect of hav-
ing a 4-year degree reduces officer reliance on the use of physical force.
Finally, similar to the findings from the ordered probit analysis, experience is also a sig-
nificant predictor of force. In this instance, encounters involving officers with greater expe-
rience leads to both less verbal and less physical force (b = –.021 and b = –.041, p < .05,
respectively). In addition, a test for interaction effects between education and experience
(see interaction effects model in Table 8) found neither term to be statistically significant
and neither added to the overall explained variance of the model.
The findings herein indicate that both college education and experience matter with respect
to police use of force. In terms of education, the effect varies depending on the type of force
used. For example, simple exposure to higher education (i.e., from attending college through
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obtaining a 4-year degree) may offer police officers a greater appreciation or understanding
for the underlying coercive nature of varying forms of verbal force (i.e., ordering and threat-
ening suspects). Clearly, such behavior is a necessary element of police work, but as shown
here, officers with some form of college education are able to go about their day-to-day activ-
ities with less reliance on such coercive actions than their high school–educated counterparts.
However, the findings further indicate that exposure alone, in the form of just attending col-
lege, is not enough in relation to the use of physical force. That is, only officers receiving the
benefit of a 4-year degree were significantly less likely to rely on physical forms of force in
their daily encounters with the public. In other words, it appears that simply attending college
is not enough when it comes to less reliance on physical force. In this respect, actually com-
pleting a 4-year program is most beneficial.
The findings also indicate that experience on the job is important when it comes to
reducing force usage in everyday encounters. Officers with more experience relied less
TABLE 8: Multinomial Logit of Police Use of Force—Main and Interaction Effects
Main Effects Interaction Effects
Verbal Physical Verbal Physical
Officer characteristics
Some college –0.555* .130 –0.308 .179 –0.548* .138 –0.275 .187
BA/BS –0.728* .134 –0.527* .183 –0.710* .140 –0.441* .190
Experience –0.021* .007 –0.041* .011 –0.018* .008 –0.040* .012
Some College
X Experience 0.002 .017 0.043 .026
BA/BS X Experience –0.008 .021 –0.004 .029
Male 0.058 .115 0.189 .163 0.059 .116 0.189 .163
Non-White 0.169 .104 0.046 .143 0.167 .104 0.046 .143
Suspect characteristics
Resistance 0.767* .111 0.773* .124 0.769* .111 0.775* .124
Conflict 0.491* .093 0.292* .125 0.491* .093 0.294* .125
Weapon 0.976* .461 2.117* .471 .976* .461 2.139* .471
Evidence 0.172* .026 0.116* .034 0.172* .026 0.118* .034
Arrest –1.469* .297 2.474* .172 –1.468* .297 2.482* .172
Male 0.164 .091 0.917* .145 0.165 .091 0.912* .145
Non-White 0.169 .088 0.407* .125 0.167 .088 0.418* .126
Age –0.107* .032 –0.271* .044 –0.108* .032 –0.274* .045
Wealth –0.232* .075 –0.370* .104 –0.231* .075 –0.364* .104
Drug/alcohol 0.423* .114 0.980* .140 0.424* .114 0.986* .140
Demeanor 0.054 .162 –0.188 .215 0.052 .162 –0.190 .216
Number of officers –0.158* .038 0.200* .038 –0.159* .038 0.196* .038
Number of bystanders –0.002 .010 –0.013 .011 –0.002 .010 –0.014 .011
Proactive encounter 0.283* .089 0.461* .118 0.278* .089 0.445* .119
Problem type 0.164 .084 0.052 .115 0.166* .084 0.051 .116
Site 0.425* .088 0.377* .121 0.419* .089 0.352* .121
Intercept –0.381 .370 1.832 .502 –0.396 .371 1.853 .504
3,356 3,356
.332 .332
Note. b
represents the regression coefficient;
represents the standard error of each coefficient.
< .05.
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often on both verbal and physical force. Hence, regardless of the educational level of the
officer, more experience leads to less force, both verbal and physical. However, although
having education and experience both affect force usage, there is no added value in having
both as the interaction models show. In other words, having either education or experience
leads to less force.
From a policy perspective, the findings indicate that police departments should consider
adopting some form of a college education requirement and perhaps even a 4-year degree
requirement. Furthermore, given the effect of experience on force uncovered in this study,
departments may wish to consider assigning patrol officers based on experience levels. Of
course, this may be difficult in light of union contracts and a natural tendency for officers to
move away from patrol work (and particularly certain shifts) as their seniority increases.
Nonetheless, some well-placed veterans across varying areas and shifts, especially the later
shifts in higher crime areas where increased levels of force often occur, may help produce
better results in terms of less force. The coordination of senior and junior officers may help
to teach the craft to less experienced peers in ways that training facilities can not. In doing so,
departments might work to provide incentives (e.g., pay) to more experienced officers who
might normally opt out of such higher crime areas and/or later shifts.
Although the current study finds important differences in the use of coercive force, based
on varying educational and experience levels, it is not without its limitations. First, the depart-
ments chosen for this research are representative of most medium-sized police agencies, and
both employ officers with a wide range of education and experience. In that sense, the find-
ings from this study would generalize to many police departments in the United States, but
perhaps not to rural or large metropolitan police departments where the demographics of offi-
cers, as well as the types of citizens and problems encountered, might differ. Future research
should seek to replicate these findings across a wide array of departments in other geograph-
ical areas and of varying size and complexity.
Second, although our education measure takes into consideration previous recommenda-
tions to distinguish between officers with some college and those who have completed a
4-year degree, the data do not afford us the opportunity to determine the type of degree
obtained or the institution that the officer attended. As others have noted (see, e.g., Hudzik,
1978; Sherman & The National Advisory Commission on Higher Education for Police
Officers, 1978), it is reasonable to suppose that both of these factors could produce variation
in the educational experience and thus differentially affect the influence of education on
behavior. Related to this matter, we were unable to determine the temporal ordering of edu-
cation, which could work to potentially blur the relative influence of education and experi-
ence. Although we control for experience, we do not know if one’s length of service is
mediating what one learned in college, as some researchers (e.g., Van Maanen, 1974) have
discussed with respect to other individual characteristics and their impact on police behav-
ior. In-depth interviews with officers would certainly address this issue and assist in disen-
tangling the influence of education and experience.
Third, as with any study relying on observational data, reactivity to the presence of
observers is a concern. To reduce potential reactive effects, a field research director was sent
to each site approximately 6 months prior to the start of the project to conduct ride-alongs
with patrol officers in an attempt to familiarize them with the project and help attenuate fears
that researchers were there to judge or report on force usage to superiors. In addition, field
researchers were trained in rapport building and other ways to make officers as comfortable
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as possible with their presence during ride-alongs. For example, officers were allowed to
examine observer field notes if they so desired. Furthermore, researchers guaranteed officers
that their identity and behavior would be protected. Attempts to capture reactivity show that
in only about one half of 1% of the officers’ encounters with the public did observers detect
evidence suggesting that officers had changed their behavior because of the researcher’s
presence. Additionally, observers characteristically reported cordial relations with officers
during ride-alongs. Observers noted that only 12% of their observation sessions began with
the officer having a negative attitude about the observer’s presence, and this dropped to only
2% of the officers demonstrating that view by the end of the observation session. Finally,
field researchers observed many instances of police behavior that could have been cause for
disciplinary action, a phenomenon noted in previous observational field studies of patrol
officers (Reiss, 1971)—suggesting that officers are not reluctant to engage in risky or ques-
tionable forms of behavior in the presence of observers.
Finally, we propose a recommendation for the study of coercion, especially with respect
to the verbal components of the police-citizen encounter. In the current study, we find that
there is less verbal coercion in encounters with officers who have some college work,
4-year degrees, and more experience, compared to encounters with high school and/or less
experienced peers. This is a finding that could certainly use greater empirical attention,
especially given that previous research has noted that more educated officers (Carter
et al., 1989), and those with greater levels of experience (Muir, 1977), are better communi-
cators. The current inquiry examined commands and threats as manifestations of verbal
force, though it would be interesting to compare other types of verbalization in police
citizen encounters that might be precursors or alternatives to coercion (e.g., suggestions,
persuasions, mediation, counseling). These types of encounters might also illuminate addi-
tional differences between officers of varying levels of education and experience than that
which was found in the present examination.
1. One exception involves a study conducted by Terrill and Mastrofski (2002) using observational data that examined the
effect of a number of situational and officer determinants on everyday use of force behavior. The present inquiry builds on
their previous work by offering a much more detailed exploration concerning the role of education and experience on use of
force behavior, as well as a more definitive or appropriate set of analyses to more readily identify the varying effects of these
2. The two departments used in this study are good sites for examining the behavior of college-educated police officers.
Comparisons of officers with 4-year degrees to the 22.6% found by Carter et al.s (1989) Police Executive Research Forum
national study reveal that Indianapolis Police Department and St. Petersburg Police Department representation were both
higher (35.6% and 26.4%, respectively).
3. We simplify the outcome measure into verbal and physical force. Our primary emphasis is found in the distinction of
using one’s voice in relation to using some form of physical application so as to control a suspect. We are interested in learn-
ing whether education and experience operate differently in terms of “commanding” a suspect to do something in compari-
son to “making” him or her do something via physical means. It is also important to note that simply making the distinction
between verbal and physical force, as done here, is still relatively rare (see Terrill & Mastrofski, 2002).
4. For the evidence measure, a summative index (0 to 8) was used. Points were assigned for each factor present and
summed: officer observed suspect perform an illegal act (3), suspect gave officer a full confession (2), suspect gave officer a
partial confession (1), officer observed physical evidence implicating suspect (1), and officer heard testimony from other cit-
izens implicating the suspect (1).
5. To reduce the effects of multicollinearity, the education and experience measures were centered (i.e., each value within
the variable was subtracted from its mean) prior to creating the interaction variables.
6. It should be reemphasized that the reference category here is high school. Additional analyses were performed using
BA/BS as the reference category to determine whether there is a difference uncovered between those with some college and
those with a 4-year degree. Results failed to find a statistically significant difference between these groupings in this respect.
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... As a result, a particular focus in demographic research has been on the role that these variables play in use of force decisions and other discriminatory treatment by police officers. While the literature on sociodemographic variables can be characterized by inconsistent findings overall, commonly studied variables include officer sex (i.e., generally, male officers are more likely to use force than females; Bolger, 2015;Johnson, 2011;Kop & Euwema, 2001;Morabito & Doerner, 1997), education (Paoline & Terrill, 2004, 2007Rydberg & Terrill, 2010;Terrill & Mastrofski, 2002), and experience (Kaminski et al., 2004;Paoline & Terrill, 2007;Rydberg & Terrill, 2010). In terms of the officer's race, the majority of studies have found that officer race has no influence on the officers' decisions to use force (Engel & Calnon, 2004;Lawton, 2007;McCluskey et al., 2005). ...
... Unfortunately, who the person is appears to play a role in use of force decisions among police officers. Suspects who are minorities, males, and/or lower class are more likely to have force used against them (Bolger, 2015;Engel & Calnon, 2004;Leinfelt, 2005;McCluskey & Terrill, 2005;Paoline & Terrill, 2007;Terrill & Mastrofski, 2002;Rydberg & Terrill, 2010;. These results are in line Kochel et al.'s (2011) finding that race plays a significant role in officer decision-making (Bolger, 2015). ...
... It has been suggested that higher educational requirements of police officers will serve as a remedy to the adverse organizational culture that permeates police forces, and which has received substantial negative attention (Constable & Smith, 2015); less reliance on use of physical or verbal force with the public (cf., Paoline & Terrill, 2007); fewer complaints and higher satisfaction regarding provision of service (cf., Wimshurst & Ransley, 2007); recognition and appreciation of different values and lifestyles of people from different cultural groups (cf., Brown, 2020); and greater professional knowledge (cf., Paterson, 2011). The rationale for academic entrance requirements into policing, driven by the increasing rhetoric of police professionalization (Cockroft, 2015), also includes the more familiar general benefits associated with university level education (Hallenberg & Cockcroft, 2017). ...
... In the case of policing this importantly includes a focus on professional ethics and an opportunity for a more detailed study of the Code and how it can be applied in the multiple challenging circumstances and calls for deliberation required of the police. Not only is this of general benefit for the officers in their professional roles, but especially with regards to the discretion, context-sensitivity, and moral awareness that the Code calls for in police decision-making, which aligns with the cultivation of intellectual capabilities, including problem-solving and the consideration of diverse opinions, cultures and lifestyles in a liberal democratic society (Brown, 2020;Paoline & Terrill, 2007;Paterson, 2011). ...
Drawing upon cross-sectional research with pre-and in-service police officers in the U.K. (N = 571), this paper reports on the moral reasoning strategies favored by the respondents in dealing with bespoke work-related moral quandaries specific to the professional practice of policing. The dominant form of moral reasoning in dealing with those dilemmas was deontological (rule-based). The second most frequently selected reasoning strategy was virtue ethical. Further analysis of the police research data indicated that those with an undergraduate degree were significantly more likely to adopt virtue ethical and consequentialist-utilitarian reasoning strategies than those who did not have an undergraduate degree. KEYWORDS
... It has been widely known that longevity in the law enforcement profession has a number of benefits outside of emotional intelligence. For example, police officers with more years of experience are involved in fewer instances of verbal and physical altercations, even after controlling for other potential causes (Paoline & Terrill, 2007;Donovan, 2007). The present research shows that law enforcement officers with more years of experience possess higher levels of emotional intelligence. ...
... workforce. An additional variable that would have been useful for this analysis would have been respondents' education level, especially because police officer educational attainment has been found to be associated with less frequent use of force (Paoline & Terrill, 2007;Rydberg & Terrill, 2010). While the researchers attempted to limit the influence of social desirability on responses, we cannot guarantee that our results are free of the impact of social desirability. ...
The police response towards people with mental illness (PwMI) is coming under increasingly intense scrutiny. Numerous jurisdictions have experienced incidents where the police have used force against persons who were exhibiting symptoms of severe mental illness. PwMI are subject to long-held stereotypes and stigma, and recent research indicates these negative attitudes remain, even with training and awareness campaigns. Available literature provides research on citizen and police perceptions of PwMI separately, but no recent studies have compared perceptions of police officers to those held by the members of the communities they patrol. The current study involves a comparison of residents in five southern New Jersey counties and police officers working in these same counties. Both sets of participants responded to a series of statements about perceptions of PwMI. Police were more likely to report supporting stigmatizing views of PwMI than were community members. Negative community response and rejection of police tactics may be rooted partly in differing expectations of treatment towards PwMI in crisis.
... Meanwhile, the science of implicit biases and stereotype threats raises concerns that a suspect's race may influence officers' decisions to draw and point their firearms (James et al., 2016;Kahn et al., 2016;Smith & Alpert, 2007;Trinkner et al., 2019). And finally, the "policing as a craft" argument (Bayley & Bittner, 1984) suggests that with experience, officers become more adept at dealing with people and resolving conflicts without relying on coercion (Bayley & Garofalo, 1989;Paoline & Terrill, 2007). Thus, inexperienced officers might be more likely to draw and point their firearms than those with more years on the job. ...
The power to use force is a defining characteristic of policing, one that is accompanied by a responsibility to exercise these powers in the circumstances deemed necessary. This study analyzes data from four policing agencies to predict the likelihood of an officer drawing and pointing their firearm at a use of force incident. Findings suggest that situational factors were important in influencing whether an officer may draw and point their firearm. However, a priming effect, in which officers were more likely to draw their firearms when dispatched to an incident, may also be present. The rate that officers drew and pointed their firearms varied between jurisdictions, as did the nature of the incidents. Caution should be exercised in generalizing the results of single-site studies on police use of force, or introducing research into policy beyond the jurisdiction in which it was performed.
... The results revealed that departments with larger shares of direct and pre-service hires were more likely to report using force than departments with fewer of these hires. The findings are consistent with Paoline and Terrill (2007) who found officers' education levels and field experiences were inversely related to their uses of verbal and physical force. ...
Using data from the 2013 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, the current study provides a cross-sectional analysis of U.S. police departments’ reported use of force. The goal of this study was to examine the extent to which departments’ reported force counts were explained by rational bureaucratic and/or institutional theory. Given the stark variations in reported force counts, a hurdle model was used to examine the potential effects of the theories on departments’ likelihoods of reporting force and the frequency in which they reported it. The results highlighted the significance of both theories. In terms of rational bureaucratic theory, the results illustrate that the absence of a collective bargaining agreement and greater professionalism requirements reduced departments’ likelihoods of reporting force, while less restrictive administrative policies increased departments’ likelihoods of reporting force and the frequencies in which they reported it. In terms of institutional theory, the results revealed that black officer representation reduced both the likelihood of reporting force and the frequency of force reported. However, increases in jurisdictions’ population and crime rates, for the most part, increased force reports. Combined the theories explained over one-fifth of the variations in departments’ reported use of force for the observed year. The findings suggest that successful efforts to reduce force-related injuries and deaths should consider the contextual environments in which rules and regulations regarding force are made.
... However, in the interviews, there was not a perfect association between the members of each team and their self-reported moral position. As such, the inspectors' actions and understandings cannot only be explained by the local group cultures, but may also be partially explained by individual dispositions-such as experience (Paoline and Terrill 2007) and internalized moral (Noppe 2018). In the analysis, these individual dispositions are recognized as elements that shape the group culture (Fine 2012). ...
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People who interact with citizens in their job often have to use discretion when facing complex situations. Research shows that how people understand their job regulates this use of discretion. Yet, little research has conceptualized how group culture shapes these understandings and discretionary actions in real‐life citizen encounters. This article addresses this gap with a microsociological theory of group culture. To demonstrate the merits of this theory, I use a sample of 11 interviews and 88 body‐worn camera recordings to analyze how ticket inspectors perceive and act in contested ticket‐fining events. The analysis identifies two group styles of moral inspection characterized by tight or loose regulation: justice or service. These styles are associated with the two operating teams in a traffic company and influence how inspectors manage contested events with a risk of escalation. I discuss how these findings contribute to the sociology of culture and enhance the understanding of how group culture shapes discretionary actions in citizen encounters.
Police discretionary decision-making is affected by a multitude of factors that may (not) impact police decisions. These factors can be divided into different groups of characteristics, one of which are the characteristics of police officers. By means of a scoping review, it was found that police officer characteristics were included in 44% (n = 232) of the studies included in the shortlist. The main factors are police officers’ experience, gender and ethnicity. Other factors identified are, among others, police officers’ prejudices or stereotypes, age, attitudes, mood or mental state, education, function, intuition or gut feeling and personality.
The current inquiry examines the influence that agency characteristics (e.g. hunting and fishing license sales, total revenue) have on the minimum entry and training standards established by those agencies (e.g. minimum education, academy type, physical standards). Open source data were collected from each state's conservation agency through an extensive internet search and directly contacting agencies. Findings indicated a significant relationship between the number of fishing license and hunting license holders and both the minimum education standards set by the agency and their academy modality ( p ≤ .05). Conversely, no significant relationships were found between revenue from license sales and any entry or training requirements. In addition, neither the number of license holders nor revenue was shown to be statistically significant among minimum physical standards for entry-level work as a conservation officer. Thus, the number of license holders appears to be more influential over the minimum education requirements and academy type versus generated revenue. This indicates that demand placed on natural resource organizations may have a greater effect than the revenue they generate.
In 2012, while returning from a visit at a local convenience store, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a community watch group member, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman stated that he was being attacked by Martin and shot him in self-defense, and in 2013 Zimmerman was acquitted of the death of Martin. There was a significant public reaction to Martin's death and the subsequent acquittal of Zimmerman. This chapter will describe Martin's death, the news media and social media coverage of the case, and the implications Martin's death brought on the discussion of racial profiling, implicit bias, and police conduct and practices. The chapter highlights the various roles Martin's death and news media and social media coverage played in the mobilization for social movement and activism highlighting racial justice in the United States.
Technical Report
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"This book . . . examines the problem of police corruption . . . in such a way that the stereotype of the crude, greedy cop who is basically a grown-up delinquent, if not an out-and-out robber, yields to portraits of particular men, often of earnest good will and even more than ordinary compassion, contending with an enormously demanding and challenging job."—Robert Coles, New Yorker "Other social scientists have observed policemen on patrol, or have interviewed them systematically. Professor Muir has brought the two together, and, because of the philosophical depth he brings to his commentaries, he has lifted the sociology of the police on to a new level. He has both observed the men and talked with them at length about their personal lives, their conceptions of society and of the place of criminals within it. His ambition is to define the good policeman and to explain his development, but his achievement is to illuminate the philosophical and occupational maturation of patrol officers in 'Laconia' (a pseudonym) . . . . His discussions of [the policemen's] moral development are threaded through with analytically suggestive formulations that bespeak a wisdom very rarely encountered in reports of sociological research."—Michael Banton, Times Literary Supplement