Police Use of Deadly Force: Research and Reform

Justice Quarterly (Impact Factor: 1.63). 06/1988; 5(2):165-205. DOI: 10.1080/07418828800089691


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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    • "From Westley's (1953) initial characterization of police use of force as violence to Bittner's (1985) observation that the core of the police role in society is the nonnegotiable use of coercive force, the conceptualization and study of police use of force is often a central component of criminal justice research. Over the years, successful attempts at reducing police use of force and the resulting harms associated with it have included changes in laws, legislation, policies, training, and practice (Fyfe, 1988). And most recently, law enforcement officials have turned to the use of less-lethal technologies (e.g. "
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    ABSTRACT: In a recent paper, researchers reported increases in the risk of citizen injury associated with police use of conducted energy devices (CEWs), a finding that is contrary to that reported in most previous studies. These authors speculate that the differences in findings when compared to other similar studies may be due, in part, to the exclusion of routine CEW dart punctures as injuries by other researchers, and they called on the research community to collectively agree on how CEW injuries should be operationalized. In this paper, we empirically demonstrate the differences in findings when routine CEW puncture wounds are included as citizen injuries and when they are not. Ultimately, we reject the authors’ measurement approach as inconsistent with how injuries associated with other types of force are routinely coded and measured.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Justice Quarterly
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    • "Yet at the same time, there seems to be widespread agreement that both the rate and frequency of use-of-force are low (Alpert and Dunham 2004; Croft 1985). Croft and Austin (1987), Friedrich (1980), and Fyfe (1988), for example, have shown that the rate of use-offorce is about 5–10 % of police contacts with suspects. 2 Bayley and Garofalo (1989) have shown that it is when transferring arrestees that the majority of use-of-force incidents occur, but such activities represent a small proportion of police work. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective Police use-of-force continues to be a major source of international concern, inviting interest from academics and practitioners alike. Whether justified or unnecessary/excessive, the exercise of power by the police can potentially tarnish their relationship with the community. Police misconduct can translate into complaints against the police, which carry large economic and social costs. The question we try to answer is: do body-worn-cameras reduce the prevalence of use-of-force and/or citizens’ complaints against the police? Methods We empirically tested the use of body-worn-cameras by measuring the effect of videotaping police–public encounters on incidents of police use-of-force and complaints, in randomized-controlled settings. Over 12 months, we randomly-assigned officers to “experimental-shifts” during which they were equipped with body-worn HD cameras that recorded all contacts with the public and to “control-shifts” without the cameras (n = 988). We nominally defined use-of-force, both unnecessary/excessive and reasonable, as a non-desirable response in police–public encounters. We estimate the causal effect of the use of body-worn-videos on the two outcome variables using both between-group differences using a Poisson regression model as well as before-after estimates using interrupted time-series analyses. Results We found that the likelihood of force being used in control conditions were roughly twice those in experimental conditions. Similarly, a pre/post analysis of use-of-force and complaints data also support this result: the number of complaints filed against officers dropped from 0.7 complaints per 1,000 contacts to 0.07 per 1,000 contacts. We discuss the findings in terms of theory, research methods, policy and future avenues of research on body-worn-videos.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Journal of Experimental Criminology
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    • "For example, data indicate that PMIs are four times more likely to be fatally shot by police than citizens without mental illness; alternatively, though police line-of-duty deaths are rare, those deaths are five times more likely to be committed by an assailant with a mental illness (Treatment Advocacy Center, 2005; see also Lurigio et al., 2008). Police-citizen encounters that end in violence are highly controversial and can have long-term devastating consequences (Fyfe, 1988; Klinger, 2004) – consequences that are aggravated when PMIs are involved. Despite the potential for violence in these interactions, there have been few studies examining the dynamics of police encounters with PMIs, particularly the critical interactions where force is used. "
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to determine whether police use of force and suspect resistance are more likely to occur in arrest encounters involving suspects with mental health problems. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study uses data from interviews with 942 individuals recently arrested by officers in more than a dozen different police departments in Maricopa County, Arizona in 2010. Both logistic and ordinal regression analyses are used to predict two models of suspect resistance (resistance in the current arrest, resistance in a previous police contact) and three models of police use of force (any force in the current arrest, ordinal measure of force in the current arrest, and any force in a previous contact). Findings ‐ The results provide empirical support for a link between mental illness and increased resistance against the police. With regard to arrestee mental illness and use of force, the results are mostly consistent with prior research suggesting a null relationship, with an important caveat involving greater use of higher level, weapon force. Research limitations/implications ‐ The study suffers from the traditional limitations associated with self-report data, and the generalizability of the findings beyond arrest encounters in Maricopa County is not known. The explanatory power of the multivariate models was relatively weak, suggesting a good degree of unexplained variance. Practical implications ‐ The non-significant relationship between arrestee mental illness and use of force is consistent with efforts by police to improve their response in these complex encounters. The significant weapon-force finding may suggest that police respond to the affronts of mentally ill suspects differently than affronts from other suspects. The non-significance of key extra-legal factors suggests that police decisions to use force were not influenced by arrestee race/ethnicity, age, or social standing. Originality/value ‐ Unlike previous studies, the current research uses self-reported measures of mental health problems. The current study also examines arrests from more than a dozen different police departments.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Policing An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management
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