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Police Use of Force: An Analysis of Organizational Characteristics

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 18 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2001 Pages: 393-409
Date Published
June 2001
17 pages

A study of how police agencies manage and influence their police officers’ use of force used data from a national probability sample of 265 police agencies to examine the impact of agency-related characteristics of aggregate rates of reported police use of force.


The survey took place in 1998. Results revealed that agencies varied in their collection and use of use-of-force data and that police agencies that required supervisors and other personnel to fill out use-of-force forms reported significantly lower rates of force than did agencies that allowed police officers to fill out their own forms. In contrast, agencies that collected use-of-force data for a specific purpose reported significantly higher rates of force than did other agencies. In addition, the rate of violent crime in the reporting jurisdiction had the strongest association with reported rates of use of force. Findings suggested either that agencies with higher levels of accountability discourage officers from using force or the competing explanation that this reporting process results in underreporting of force to supervisors or other officers. Findings provided partial support for the importance of organizational factors in aggregate rates of force and indicated the need for comprehensive annual State and national data collection. Findings also indicated the need for longitudinal analyses of police use of force in social, political, and economic contexts and for studies of the extent to which administrative characteristics and training in violence reduction relate to rates of use of force. Tables, footnotes, and 42 references

Date Published: June 1, 2001