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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77074 Find in a Library
Title: Police Discretion in the Use of Deadly Force - An Empirical Study of Information Usage in Deadly Force Decisionmaking
Journal: Journal of Police Science and Administration  Volume:9  Issue:1  Dated:(March 1981)  Pages:102-107
Author(s): G A Hayden
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 6
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Findings are reported from an examination of the types of information used in individual police decisions about the use of deadly force.
Abstract: A device known as the 'information board' as developed by Wilkins (1965) was used to analyze police deadly force decisionmaking. Its construction involved interviewing a panel of authorities to develop those information topics which would be used. Recommendations produced 20 topics of information considered by them as relevant situational aspects of decisions relating to the use of deadly force. Three cases were given to a sample of 50 police selected randomly from a large northeastern city and its suburbs. After familiarizing themselves with the cases, each subject was asked to select, in the order of their perceived importance, those information topics regularly used to decide whether the situation possessed a low, medium, or high chance of requiring a response involving the use of deadly force. Findings show that police generally do not consider all the information available to them and rank substantial amounts of that information as unimportant in deciding whether to use deadly force. Also, the decision on the use of deadly force is shown to be a highly individualistic task, wherein personal judgment and small amounts of information play an important role in decisionmaking. No significant correlation could be developed between the officers' ultimate decision and their prior use of force, physical size, work community, age, years of experience, education, or marital status. Results strongly suggest that officers consider information on the suspect's characteristics as unimportant, while attention is given to the nature of the act initiating their response. The study also revealed that a small percentage of police may develop a preconceived concept of newly encountered situations and alter facts to meet these preconceived expectations. Those susceptible to this practice run a high risk of improper situational assessment and response. This research should be viewed as a measurement of the more typical decisionmaking processes and as a first step in the examination of deadly force decisionmaking. Tabular data and references are provided.
Index Term(s): Police decisionmaking; Police use of deadly force; Psychological research
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