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Police Officer Characteristics and the Likelihood of Using Deadly Force

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 35 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2008 Pages: 505-521
James P. McElvain; Augustine J. Kposowa
Date Published
April 2008
17 pages
This study investigated officer characteristics (race, education, rank, age, and gender) in police shootings.
Data analysis indicated that race/ethnicity was a strong determinant of officer-involved shootings; race was significant in multivariate analyses in the presence of such covariates as gender, education, age, rank, and previous history of shootings. Male officers were more likely to shoot than female officers; college educated officers were less likely to be involved in shootings than officers with no college education. White, non-Hispanic officers were more likely to engage in shootings than Hispanic officers; however, there were no significant difference between Hispanic and Black officers. Previous history of shootings was a very strong predictor of future shootings; officers who have experienced one shooting are more likely to become involved in a future shooting. Rank and age of the officer both appeared to be somewhat connected The average age of officers involved in shootings was older than 34 years old, older than would normally be expected, given that officers characteristically begin their careers in the earlier 20s. This may be due to Riverside County Sheriff's Department's (RCSD's) deployment practices. Like many other sheriffs' departments with the responsibility for maintaining jails, the RCSD generally assigns its new officers to corrections. However, after servicing in a correctional assignment, the officers will transfer to a patrol station where the risk of experiencing a shooting incident naturally increases. Data were collected from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, the 44th largest law enforcement department in the United States; by 2004, when the final year data were compiled for this study, the department employed nearly 1,500 deputies. Tables, notes, references