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Week 4 Use of Force USA

Page history last edited by jonathan.mccombs@franklin.edu 5 years, 5 months ago

In the United States

Police use of force has been studied from several different angles.  Researchers at the University of South Carolina studied the use of force incidents at multiple agencies over time to measure variables related to officer and suspect injury.  The study was comprehensive and also measured the implementation of the use of the Taser into two of the departments studied (Smith,Kaminski, Alpert, Fridell, Macdonald, & Kubu, 2010).


Police organizations recognize that the use of force is a fine line to walk when one considers the need for the police to protect themselves and others from harm but also to consider the reasonableness of force being utilized to minimize unnecessary harm.  The history of prominent incidents has left a black eye on law enforcement in the United States.  The Rodney King incident brought police abuse of use of force to the mainstream with video of the incident and the ensuing rioting to protest the abuse of authority that was displayed.  More recently, the Ferguson, MO incident gained national attention as a police officer shot and killed an unarmed man in the streets of Ferguson.  These incidents both capture public attention and highlight the need for the public to understand what is reasonable force when considering the law and agency policy.  However, in a democratic society one might argue that public outcry can serve to change policy direction in this regard.  


In the aftermath of the Rodney King beatings (1993), academic and field research was conducted throughout the United States to answer questions about how much force was used and in what particular instances.  A compilation of academic work on the police use of force was published in 1995 and included some prominent academics and their associated work, And Justice for All, edited by Geller and Toch (1995) that integrated many of the factors related to the use of force.  Much of the culmination of this work spurred the International Association of Chiefs of Police to undergo a project aimed at collecting use of force data from all law enforcement agencies in the United States.  This effort has not been very successful as many agencies do not report their statistics.  Many argue that use of force is not a statistic that is tracked equally among law enforcement agencies (Hickman, Piquero, & Garner, 2008).  


A more recent and summative academic research project was the Hickman, Piquero, & Garner study (2008).  This study provides estimates on the use of force as reported by over 30 academic studies over thirty years.  The range of use of force per contact with citizens ranges from less than one percent to over 30 percent.  The authors conclude that about 1.7 % of citizen contacts result in some non lethal use of force incident and 20 % of arrest involve non lethal use of force.  Deadly force was excluded from this study 1) no-one can be surveyed as a comparison as in this study and 2) deadly force is very rare, contrary to media and popular opinion.  In any given year, approximately 400 people are killed by police officers in deadly force situations.  The over 800,000 officers and untold number of citizen contacts would provide evidence that this is exceedingly rare to occur.  



Much of this writing emanates from research conducted in a study by McCombs (2015) on the use of force in multiple law enforcement agencies across the country through annual report data: Reno Nevada Police Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and Columbus, OH Division of Police.  The research reveals that some police departments fail to provide adequate use of force data and others provide a plethora of this information.  It appears from the literature that use of force incidents per arrest or use of force incidents per calls for service are good measures of the use of force.  It is also well established the use of force is a job performance measure.  


Students should review the linked research and obtain independent sources to answer the following questions:


1)  What use of force parameters (policy and legal) are currently considered reasonable?


2)  What environmental and other considerations are important to consider when analyzing particular use of force incidents?


3)  What would happen if policy and legal parameters would be restricted for law enforcement use of force?


4)  Develop a proposal to limit the most deadly use of force incidents among police officers while considering current legal and other parameters.  


A few articles to explore as it relates to the creation of a wiki around the police use of force.  Also included are some reports on the instances of use of force from the Columbus, OH  Division of Police.  

police use of force a transactional approach article 2005.pdf Columbus Police 2010 Annual Report.pdf 4th Quarter 2013 IAB Report.pdf

rand corporation use of force and pbl.pdf














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