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 on January 01, 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.

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