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Police Responses to Officer-Involved Shootings

NCJ Number
Date Published
138 pages
This study reviews previous research on police officers' responses when they are involved in shootings, describes the research procedures used in the current study, provides sketches of the officers who participated in the current study and of the incidents in which they shot someone, details officers' experiences during and after their shootings, and concludes with a discussion of the academic and policy ramifications of these findings.
Previous research has indicated that during shootings officers sometimes experience sensory distortions such as tunnel vision, auditory blunting, and altered perceptions of time. Regarding post-shooting responses, officers have reported a variety of short-term and long-term reactions that can include recurrent thoughts about the incident, a sense of numbness, difficulty sleeping, sadness, crying, and nausea. The current research consisted of interviews with 80 municipal and county police officers who reported on 113 separate cases in which they shot someone during the course of their careers. Perhaps the single most salient point from this study is that the act of shooting another person did not typically produce lasting disruption in the lives of the officers studied. Officers involved in more than half of the shootings reported no negative psychological, emotional, or physical responses after one week had passed since the incident. The percentage of cases in which officers were reaction-free increased to nearly two-thirds at the three-month mark. It is evident that officers in the current study were far less likely to suffer protracted problems than were their peers who participated in previous research. Possible reasons for this difference are explored. Implications of these findings are drawn for mental health protocols following police shootings and for general departmental policies and procedures following an officer shooting. 15 tables, 8 figures, the study questionnaire, and 24 references

Date Published: January 1, 2001