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Police Officer Decisionmaking in Potentially Violent Confrontations

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 20 Issue: 5 Dated: (1992) Pages: 385-399
Date Published
15 pages
Instead of conceptualizing police use of deadly force incidents as single "shoot/do not shoot" decisions, the authors characterized police-citizen encounters in terms of a series of events and decisions stretching back in time before the deadly force decision is made.
Data were obtained from four cities (Birmingham, Miami, Newark, and Oakland). Incidents selected for analysis included potentially violent confrontations rather than just incidents in which police officers decided to use deadly force. These incidents were studied in terms of encounter phases and whether they resulted in a decision to shoot. Shoot/nonshoot data from the four cities allowed comparisons across factors related to deadly force incidents and incidents in which deadly force could have been used but was not. It was found that deadly force situations were characterized by ambiguity and surprise. More shooters than nonshooters did not have information on the subjects they were facing, could not determine the emotional state of subjects, and had not perceived the situations as possibly deadly encounters. It was also determined that the information exchange phase of an encounter may be critical in determining whether deadly force will be used or averted. Shoot scenarios are characterized by verbal interaction that makes the subject angrier and results in noncompliance. Additional analysis is needed to assess the mutual dependency of police officers' actions and offenders' responses. 40 references and 12 tables

Date Published: January 1, 1992