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Less Lethal Force Policy and Police Officer Perceptions: A Multisite Examination

NCJ Number
Date Published
William Terrill, Eugene A. Paoline III
This research examined policy and standards in the use of less lethal force.
The relationship between administrative policy and deadly force has been well established in the policing literature. Surprisingly, there has been no similarly oriented research with respect to less lethal force. The current inquiry seeks to start this process. Utilizing data collected from a national multiagency use of force project, the authors focus on those charged with the street-level application of organizational use of force policy. In doing so, patrol officers (N = 990) from 3 agencies, each varying in terms of policy direction, are surveyed regarding the extent to which they believe their agency policy offers appropriate forms of guidance and restrictiveness. The findings show a number of significant policy effects. In particular, officers working in a department that uses a loosely coupled nonlinear model are significantly less likely to believe their agency policy offers adequate guidance in terms of when force can and cannot be used. However, the findings also illustrate that officers do not want to be too tightly constrained within a linear policy model in relation to restrictiveness. Such findings suggest that agency leaders may wish to consider a linear-based design that offers some degree of policy guidance, but not so much that force options are overly restricted. The implications of these findings for police practitioners and researchers are considered. Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.
Date Created: June 4, 2014