Cover: Police Use of Force

Police Use of Force

An Analysis of Organizational Characteristics

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

Posted on 2001

by Geoffrey P. Alpert, John MacDonald

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 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.

RAND 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.