Perceptions of Police Use of Force: A Comparison Between Citizens and Police Officers
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Police officers rely on citizen cooperation to effectively perform their job duties. Recent events involving police use of force have begun to widen the divide between police officers and citizens. Surprisingly, there is a lack of research regarding perception of police use of force. A majority of research that has been conducted on this topic focuses on individual-level characteristics like race, age, and gender. This study seeks to examine situational factors of use-of-force encounters to determine which aspects are influential. A factorial survey is employed to test situational factors while omitting individual-level characteristics. The situational factors include number of officers present, suspect and officer weapon, suspect movement, and suspect and officer injury. Participants were given 10 randomly assigned vignettes from a universe of 216. Questions about reasonableness, punishment, how much force the participant would use, and trust were asked after each vignette. Police officers recently enrolled in one of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center’s classes were sampled. The national survey firm SSRS was used to gather a nationwide sample of citizens. There were 821 officer and 488 citizen respondents used in the analysis. The results were analyzed using multilevel linear, logistic, and ordinal regression. Results indicate general agreement between officers and citizens regarding what influences their perceptions of force. These findings are discussed in comparison with other research and widely-held beliefs about the influence of race.