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How Police Officers Perform in Encounters With the Public Measuring What Matters at the Individual Level

NCJ Number
Policing-an International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 41 Issue: 2 Dated: 2018 Pages: 215-232
Date Published
17 pages
This article reports on a project to develop and describe the implementation of a novel method for creating interval-level metrics for objectively assessing police officer behaviors during an encounter with the public.

These behaviors constitute officer performance and affect the probability of desirable encounter outcomes. The metrics measure concrete, micro-level performance in the common types of complex, dynamic, and low-information police-public encounters that often require immediate action using "naturalistic" decision making. Difficulty metrics also were developed to control for situational variability. The utility of measuring what officers do that relates to probabilistic outcomes is explored to inform policymaking, field practice, and training. Metric sets were developed separately for three types of police-public encounters: deadly force judgment and decision making, cross-cultural tactical social interaction, and crisis intervention. In each, "reverse concept mapping" was used with a different diverse focus group of "true experts" to authoritatively deconstruct implicit concepts and derive important variables. Variables then were scaled with Thurstone's method, using 198 diverse expert trainers to create interval-level metrics for performance and situational difficulty. Metric utility was explored during two experimental laboratory studies and in response to a problematic police encounter. Objective, interval-level metric sets were developed for measuring micro-level police performance and encounter difficulty. Validation and further refinement are required. This novel method provides a practical way to rapidly develop metrics that measure micro-level performance during police-public encounters much more precisely than was previously possible. The metrics developed provide a foundation for measuring officers' performance as they exercise discretion, engage people, and affect perceptions of police legitimacy. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018