Police Use of Force

An Analysis of Organizational Characteristics

Published in: Justice Quarterly, v. 18, no. 2, June 2001, p. 393-409

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2000

by Geoffrey P. Alpert, John MacDonald

Read More

Access further information on this document at www.metapress.com

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Police use of force has become an important public policy concern and topic of research during the past few years. A number of researchers have hypothesized that the structural context of police departments may influence officers' use of force. Despite these claims, little is known on a national level about how law enforcement agencies manage and influence their officers' use of force. The authors analyzed data from a national probability sample of 265 agencies to examine the impact of agency-related characteristics on aggregate rates of reported police use of force. The authors found that agencies which require supervisors and other personnel to fill out use-of-force forms report significantly lower rates of force than agencies that allow officers to fill out their own forms. In contrast, agencies that collect use-of-force data for a specific purpose report significantly higher rates of force. The rate of violent crime in the reporting jurisdiction has the strongest association with reported use-of-force rates. Implications of this research for theory and policy are discussed.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.