Primed for Force: Police Officer Stress and Near-Term Use of Force
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The names of a growing number of Americans have entered the public discourse because their lives have been ended directly by the actions of law enforcement officers in the course of their assigned duties. In the United States, police violence, disproportionately affecting communities of color and other marginalized individuals, has become an increasing concern. These concerns have led to nationwide protests against police violence. The study of police use of force is a timely and important topic of academic research, particularly when the research has the potential for immediate impact in public policy. The current political situation of 2020 and civil unrest provides an especially relevant policy window though which real and lasting change in American policing can occur. The American law enforcement and justice system are plagued by a long and engrained history of systemic racism and brutality which disproportionately affects marginalized communities. Though efforts are being made to fundamentally change the structure of policing in America through defunding and reorganization efforts by city councils, mayors, and municipality managers at the demand of the people, police agencies themselves are beginning to take a look inward and examine how internal policies can be effective means in combating the forces of systemic racism.Police officers are employed in one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Officers are expected to routinely engage in dangerous and life-threatening activities while also interacting with community members in times of instability and emotionally taxing events all while maintaining a professional and unemotional demeanor (Hyde, Chungkham, & Ladusingh, 2018). Operational stressors, such as being in a physical struggle with an assailant, encountering a traffic fatality, or interacting with a vulnerable victim of crime and organizational stressors like promotional expectations or scheduling both contribute to the total stress policing puts on officers. In addition to the effects of stress on officer physical and mental health, these stressors become components of the cognitive decision-making process through which an officer makes the decision to use force. In recent years, the comprehensive and scientific study of police use of force has begun to search for ways to mitigate against unnecessary harm to both innocent members of the population and crime offenders including the effectiveness of crisis intervention training, de-escalation techniques, and early intervention systems. This study turns toward the officers themselves and analyzes the effect a police officer’s near-term fatigue, both physical and emotional, has on use of force outcomes by determining if that officer’s dispatch to certain types of calls for police service can predict a force outcome of a subsequent response. Examining how specific types of public interactions within the course of an officer’s day may result in a greater chance that officer will be involved in a use of force incident can be a useful addition to officer early warning indicator systems or could influence other department policies like the way officers are scheduled or dispatched to calls for police service in an effort to decrease police use of force.
- MA in Policy Studies