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Characteristics Associated with the Prevalence and Severity of Force Used by the Police

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 19 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 705-745
Date Published
December 2002
41 pages

This article discusses the associations between encounter-level characteristics and the severity of police use of force.


Presenting a detailed introduction to previous research focused on the long tradition of police use of deadly force, the authors describe prior studies that have measured the amount of force used by law enforcement officials and previous multivariate statistical analyses of models detailing the prevalence of force used by police officials. Building on the strengths and limitations of previous research concerning police use of force, the authors examined the use of force in 7,512 adult custody arrests. After describing the six law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, Colorado, Texas, Florida, and two sites in California that participated in this study from 1996 to 1997, the researchers describe how they measured the physical use of force by police officers. Testing situational characteristics such as type of location, nature of the offense, police mobilization, officers’ characteristics, and suspects’ characteristics, the authors present their findings in three analytical models that regress the measure of police use of physical force on characteristics in five domains. Results from this study indicate that the associations between encounter-level characteristics and police use of force are largely dependent on suspects’ resistance and on the measure of force used. The authors indicate that future research concerning police officers’ use of force will be enhanced by going beyond single measures and by addressing multiple measures of force with fully developed measures of suspects’ resistance. Tables, references

Date Published: December 1, 2002