Research on Police Use of Force

Reducing Use-of-Force

Use of Police Body-Worn Cameras by the Rialto (Calif.) Police Department has received a "Promising" rating on CrimeSolutions.gov.

NIJ has funded studies on police use of force for more than two decades. Read summaries of some recent NIJ-funded research below or access a complete list of publications related to use of force.

NIJ is currently funding a Seattle University study of the validity and reliability of national data on citizen complaints about police use of force. Read an abstract and see award details.

Multi-Method Evaluation of Police Use of Force Outcomes[1]

This study looked at injuries to law enforcement officers and civilians during use-of-force events. Injury rates varied depending on the law enforcement agency. Civilian injury rates ranged from 17 to 64 percent, and officer injury rates ranged from 10 to 20 percent.

The researchers found that most applications of force were minimal, with officers using their hands, arms or bodies to push or pull against a suspect to gain control, and most injuries were minor and involved bruises, strains and abrasions. Major injuries included dog bites, broken bones and gunshot wounds.

The researchers also found that for some agencies in the study, using pepper spray and conducted energy devices (CEDs), such as Tasers, significantly reduced injuries to suspects and using CEDs reduced injuries to officers. However, the variation among agencies suggests that not every agency’s experience with pepper spray and CEDs will be the same.

Learn more about the study:

Assessing Police Use-of-Force Policy and Outcomes[2]

This study looked at variation in use-of-force policies among law enforcement agencies across the country, focusing on policies with a use-of-force continuum. The study included a survey mailed to a stratified random sample of police agencies and a more thorough comparative analysis of eight agencies.

From the agency survey, the researchers found that 80 percent of agencies used a continuum in their use-of-force policy. When they asked agencies to detail the levels and placement of use-of-force tactics and citizen resistance progression, they found 123 permutations in force progression, ranging from three to nine different levels (82 percent relied on five or six levels), and 23 permutations for citizen resistance progression, ranging from three to seven levels (92 percent relied on five or six levels). Determining the proper placement of chemical sprays and CEDs within the continuum was agencies’ greatest challenge.

Learn more about the study. Read an abstract and access the final report.

Safety Outcomes for Use-of-Force Cases for Law Enforcement Agencies With and Without Conducted Energy Devices[3]

Researchers found that agencies that used CEDs had better safety outcomes on six of nine safety measures compared to the matched agencies that did not use CEDs:

  • Officer injuries
  • Suspect injuries
  • Suspect severe injuries
  • Officers who received injuries that required medical attention
  • Suspects who received injuries that required medical attention
  • Suspects who received injuries that resulted in their being taken to an emergency treatment facility.

The researchers found no differences between the CED and non-CED agencies on number of suspect deaths, severe officer injuries and officer injuries that required hospitalization.

The researchers concluded that the findings indicate that CEDs can be an effective weapon for minimizing physical struggles in use-of-force cases and may help avoid up-close combative situations and reduce officer and suspect injuries.

Learn more about the study. Read an abstract and access the final report.

Notes

[1] Smith, Michael R., Robert J. Kaminski, Geoffrey P. Alpert, Lorie A. Fridell, John MacDonald, and Bruce Kubu, A Multi-Method Evaluation of Police Use of Force Outcomes, Final Report to the National Institute of Justice, July 2010, Award No. 2005-IJ-CX-0056, NCJ 231176.

[2] Terrill, William, Eugene A. Paoline III, and Jason Ingram, Assessing Police Use of Force Policy and Outcomes, Final Report to the National Institute of Justice, February 2012, Award No. 2005-IJ-CX-0055, NCJ 237794.

[3] Taylor, Bruce, Daniel Woods, Bruce Kubu, Chris Koper, Bill Tegeler, Jason Cheney, Mary Martinez, James Cronin, Kristin Kappelman, Comparing Safety Outcomes in Police Use-Of-Force Cases for Law Enforcement Agencies That Have Deployed Conducted Energy Devices and A Matched Comparison Group That Have Not: A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation, Final Report to the National Institute of Justice, March 2012, Award No. 2006-IJ-CX-0028, NCJ 237965.

Date Created: November 29, 2016