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Identifying Situational Predictors of Police Shootings Using Multivariate Analysis

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 25 Issue: 4 Dated: 2002 Pages: 726-751
Michael D. White
Lawrence F. Travis III
Date Published
26 pages
Using data describing deadly force incidents in Philadelphia, this study used multivariate analyses in an attempt to identify predictors of specific types of police shootings from a variety of situational variables characterizing the incidents.
The identification of predictors of use of deadly force are useful in assessing the relative contributions of situational variables and helpful in understanding variation in police shooting behavior. Making use of data describing deadly force incidents in Philadelphia during the time periods of 1970-1978 and 1987-1992, this study used multivariate analyses to examine the role of specific situational variables to use in a pilot effort to develop predictive risk classifications of deadly force incidents involving gun-assaultive suspects. Study findings indicated a substantial consistency in the predictors of the dependent variable across time and analytic technique, despite fundamental differences in the data. The consistency across time and analysis indicated strong predictive relationships and underscored the value of their identification for anticipating violent outcomes in encounters involving gun-wielding suspects. For both time periods, the type of incident surfaced as a critically important predictor. The risk of ending in a gun-assaultive deadly force incident was elevated based on the category of events, such as man with a gun, robbery, and disturbance incidents. In addition, when multiple officers responded to an incident, there was a greater tendency for gun-assaultive deadly force incidents to result. The analyses consistently show that shootings of gun-wielding suspects are more likely to occur during the early stages of the encounters. This suggests that officers may structure their confrontations in ways that will likely reduce the possibility of escalation to deadly force. Tables and references