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Understanding the Use of Force by and Against the Police, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 1996
11 pages
Publication Series
This study examined 1,585 adult custody arrests in Phoenix, Ariz., to determine the use of force both by and against the police.
The study included a survey of police officers over a 2-week period in June 1994 and interviews with 185 suspects. The findings show that force was used infrequently by the police and even less frequently by suspects. Suspects interviewed reported levels of police force similar to those obtained from officer self-reports. Police used some physical force in approximately one of every five arrests. Suspects used some physical force in approximately one of every six arrests. Phoenix police officers are required to restrain only felony or belligerent suspects. In 20 percent of all adult custody arrests studied, officers opted to use no restraints. When force was used by the police or suspects, it was typically at the low end of the severity scale. Weapons were used by the police in 2 percent of all arrests. The weapon most often used by the police was a flashlight. Of 41 factors examined, only nine consistently contributed to the prediction of police use of force. The single best predictor of police use of force was suspect use of force. Two-thirds of the variation in the amount of force used by police remains unexplained. Policy implications of the findings are discussed. 8 exhibits

Date Published: November 1, 1996