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Violent Police Behavior: Past, Present, and Future Research Directions

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 10 Issue: 5 Dated: July-August 2005 Pages: 552-568
Kim Michelle Lersch; Tom Mieczkowski
Date Published
July 2005
17 pages
This literature review on violent police behavior addresses the history of violent police misconduct, characteristics of the officers and citizens involved in violent encounters, situational circumstances, theoretical explanations, and various methods for controlling violent police behavior.
Consideration of the history of police violence addresses the definition of excessive force; officers' age, tenure, gender, and race; citizen characteristics in violent encounters with police; and demeanor and situation characteristics. The review of theoretical developments addresses psychological theories ("rotten apples" perspective); sociological theories (the subculture of policing); and organizational theories (the work environment). The authors note that none of these theories provides a complete explanation for police misconduct. They advise that future researchers should incorporate various micro-level theories, such as social learning, strain, or control theories. The inclusion of micro-level analysis would assist in understanding why, under similar circumstances, different officers may behavior in markedly different ways. A review of means used to control violent police behavior discusses civilian review boards, community policing, departmental early warning systems that can identify officers at risk for violent behavior, the hiring of more female officers, and internal control. Some issues identified as having not been adequately addressed in the literature are how often police use force, the types of force used, when the use of force becomes excessive, the circumstances under which a citizen is likely to file a complaint that alleges the excessive use of force by police, and why excessively violent police behavior occurs. 68 references