U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Analysis of Police Use-of-Force Data

NCJ Number
183648
Date Published
January 1998
Length
81 pages
Author(s)
Geoffrey P. Alpert; Roger G. Dunham
Agencies
NIJ-Sponsored
Annotation
This report first reviews what is currently known about police use of force and then presents relevant information that was collected from the Metro-Dade Police Department in Miami and from the sister cities of Eugene and Springfield, Ore.
Abstract
Prior research on police use of force has focused on the most force used or the highest level reached in an encounter. The current analysis differs from previous research in that it addresses the level of force used by the police relative to the suspect's level of resistance, which this study calls the "force factor." The force factor is calculated by measuring both the suspect's level of resistance and the officer's level of force, scaled in the same manner. Suspect level of resistance was measured in four ordinal categories: no resistance, slight resistance, moderate or high resistance, and violent or explosive resistance. Corresponding levels of force were no force, slight force, forcibly subdued suspect with hands, and forcibly subdued the suspect using methods other than hands. To calculate the force factor, the level of resistance was subtracted from the level of police force. A zero score was interpreted as commensurate force for the level of resistance. The Metro-Dade distribution was skewed slightly to the negative side, indicating that, on the average, the level of police force used was slightly lower than the level of resistance. On the other hand, the Oregon distribution was skewed slightly to the positive side, indicating that, on the average, the level of police force used was slightly higher than the level of resistance. These findings correlate with the training emphases of the departments. Metro-Dade officers are trained to choose a level of force slightly under the level of resistance; whereas, the Eugene and Springfield officers are trained to choose a level of force slightly higher than the level of resistance. Implications are drawn for policy and training. 20 tables, 2 figures, and 52 references

Date Created: March 14, 2003