Interactive Police-Citizen Encounters That Result in Force

Published in: Police Quarterly, v. 7, no. 4, Dec. 2004, p. 13-14

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2004

by Geoffrey P. Alpert, Roger D. Dunham, John MacDonald

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The behavior of officers and suspects during encounters is influenced by the actions, comments, and demeanor of the other actor. The present study looks at the interactive context of police-citizen encounters that result in the use of force. The results of the study show that police-citizen encounters are not only interactive but also asymmetrical with respect to authority. Police use-of-force interactions with civilians are more likely to involve greater levels of force by the police relative to the level of suspect resistance when a suspect appears to have less authority relative to the police officer. During an encounter, police and citizens interpret and decide how to respond to each other. This interpretive process can shape the outcome of an encounter and is an important link to the understanding of police behavior.

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