National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Understanding the Use of Force By and Against the Police in Six Jurisdictions in the United States, 1996-1997 (ICPSR 3172) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

This study examined the amount of force used by and against law enforcement officers and more than 50 characteristics of officers, civilians, and arrest situations associated with the use of different levels of force. An important component of this multijurisdiction project was to employ a common measurement of elements of force and predictors of force. Data were gathered about suspects' and police officers' behaviors from adult custody arrests in six urban law enforcement agencies. The participating agencies were the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Police Department, Colorado Springs (Colorado) Police Department, Dallas (Texas) Police Department, St. Petersburg (Florida) Police Department, San Diego (California) Police Department, and San Diego County (California) Sheriff's Department. Data collection began at different times in the participating departments, so the total sample included arrests during the summer, fall, and winter of 1996-1997. Forms were completed and coded for 7,512 adult custody arrests (Part 1). This form was used to record officer self-reports on the characteristics of the arrest situation, the suspects, and the officers, and the specific behavioral acts of officers, suspects, and bystanders in a particular arrest. Similar items were asked of 1,156 suspects interviewed in local jails at the time they were booked following arrest to obtain an independent assessment of officer and suspect use of force (Part 2). Officers were informed that some suspects would be interviewed, but they did not know which would be interviewed or when. Using the items included on the police survey, the research team constructed four measures of force used by police officers -- physical force, physical force plus threats, continuum of force, and maximum force. Four comparable measures of force used by arrested suspects were also developed. These measures are included in the data for Part 1. Each measure was derived by combining specific actions by law enforcement officers or by suspects in various ways. The first measure was a traditional conceptual dichotomy of arrests in which physical force was or was not used. For both the police and for suspects, the definition of physical force included any arrest in which a weapon or weaponless tactic was used. In addition, police arrests in which officers used a severe restraint were included. The second measure, physical force plus threats, was similar to physical force but added the use of threats and displays of weapons. To address the potential limitations of these two dichotomous measures, two other measures were developed. The continuum-of-force measure captured the levels of force commonly used in official policies by the participating law enforcement agencies. To construct the fourth measure, maximum force, 503 experienced officers in five of the six jurisdictions ranked a variety of hypothetical types of force by officers and by suspects on a scale from 1 (least forceful) to 100 (most forceful). Officers were asked to rank these items based on their own personal experience, not official policy. These rankings of police and suspect use of force, which appear in Part 3, were averaged for each jurisdiction and used in Part 1 to weight the behaviors that occurred in the sampled arrests. Variables for Parts 1 and 2 include nature of the arrest, features of the arrest location, mobilization of the police, and officer and suspect characteristics. Part 3 provides officer rankings on 54 items that suspects might do or say during an arrest. Separately, officers ranked a series of 44 items that a police officer might do or say during an arrest. These items include spitting, shouting or cursing, hitting, wrestling, pushing, resisting, fleeing, commanding, using conversational voice, and using pressure point holds, as well as possession, display, threat of use, or use of several weapons (e.g., knife, chemical agent, dog, blunt object, handgun, motor vehicle).

Access Notes

  • One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions ; consult the restrictions note to learn more. You can apply online for access to the data. A login is required to apply for access.

    A downloadable version of data for this study is available however, certain identifying information in the downloadable version may have been masked or edited to protect respondent privacy. Additional data not included in the downloadable version are available in a restricted version of this data collection. For more information about the differences between the downloadable data and the restricted data for this study, please refer to the codebook notes section of the PDF codebook. Users interested in obtaining restricted data must complete and sign a Restricted Data Use Agreement, describe the research project and data protection plan, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research.

Dataset(s)

DS0:  Study-Level Files
Documentation:
DS1:  Police Officer Survey Data - Download All Files (23.1 MB)
DS2:  Suspect Interview Data - Download All Files (1.8 MB)
DS3:  Police Officer Ranking of Force Data - Download All Files (1.1 MB)

Study Description

Citation

Garner, Joel H., and Christopher D. Maxwell. Understanding the Use of Force By and Against the Police in Six Jurisdictions in the United States, 1996-1997. ICPSR03172-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2001. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03172.v1

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (95-IJ-CX-0066)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   arrest procedures, arrest records, assaults on police, law enforcement, police officers, police use of force

Geographic Coverage:   California, Charlotte, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Florida, Mecklenburg, North Carolina, San Diego, St. Petersburg, Texas, United States

Time Period:  

  • 1996-08--1997-02

Date of Collection:  

  • 1996--1997

Unit of Observation:   individual

Universe:   All adult custody arrests in the participating jurisdictions during their sampling period.

Data Types:   survey data

Data Collection Notes:

Users are encouraged to obtain a copy of the project's final report for a more complete description of the four constructed measures of force.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   Prior research has examined the relationship between variations in police behavior and variations in possible explanatory factors, such as demographic characteristics of police officers and citizens, situational factors of police-citizen encounters, and community characteristics. The research on the use of force has, in many instances, been limited to situations in which some type of force, usually deadly force, was used. The use of samples that do not represent all police behavior limits the ability to describe when force is used and when it is not used. To address this limitation, this research project employed systematic samples of adult custody arrests in order to provide a comparison of a complete set of police behaviors in circumstances when force was used with behaviors conducted in circumstances when force was not used. Further, the design of this research project -- systematic samples, multiple sources of information, and multivariate analysis -- was guided by the assessment that much of the prior research had confounded the measurement of force with definitions of what is and is not excessive force. In this project, the difficult task of defining and measuring excessive force was deferred and the researchers focused instead on the measurement of the amount of force, with the expectation that this information would inform issues surrounding the use of excessive force. Similarly, since no single measure is likely to capture well all the various understandings of the use of force, this research project used multiple measures of force in order to incorporate more precisely the various ways in which force is conceptualized by the police, the public, and researchers.

Study Design:   This study examined the amount of force used by and against law enforcement officers and more than 50 characteristics of officers, civilians, and arrest situations associated with the use of different levels of force. An important component of this multijurisdiction project was to employ a common measurement of elements of force and predictors of force. Data were gathered about suspects' and police officers' behaviors from adult custody arrests in six urban law enforcement agencies. The participating agencies were the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Police Department, Colorado Springs (Colorado) Police Department, Dallas (Texas) Police Department, St. Petersburg (Florida) Police Department, San Diego (California) Police Department, and San Diego County (California) Sheriff's Department. Data collection began at different times in the participating departments, so the total sample included arrests during the summer, fall, and winter of 1996-1997. Initial data collection began in the Colorado Springs Police Department in mid-August 1996, and data collection was completed in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in the second week of February 1997. One-page, two-sided forms were completed and coded for 7,512 adult custody arrests (Part 1). This form was used to record officer self-reports on the characteristics of the arrest situation, the suspects, and the officers, and the specific behavioral acts of officers, suspects, and bystanders in a particular arrest. Officers filled out the form following the arrest and handed it in with their arrest paperwork. The form completed by the police officers was derived from a similar study conducted in Phoenix, Arizona, during 1994 (PHOENIX [ARIZONA] USE OF FORCE PROJECT, JUNE 1994 [ICPSR 9926]) but modified to conform to the local characteristics, police terminology, and departmental policies of the participating agencies. One crucial difference in these forms from the ones used in Phoenix was the ability to identify the arrest incident. This improved the study's ability to link data from these forms with other departmental records about arrests. In addition, the researchers were able to more easily link information from suspect interviews with officer survey responses. The completion of the form by the officers was encouraged by management at roll call and by directives and videos. Police management helped disseminate blank forms but purposefully did not have possession of the completed forms, and they did not know if a particular officer completed or did not complete the form. The forms went into locked boxes that research staff collected. Research staff did not know if both an officer survey and a suspect interview had been received for an arrest until months later, when the data were coded. The ranking forms could be and likely were completed by officers who also completed an arrest survey form. However, there was no connection between an individual officer completing an arrest survey form and a ranking form. Items similar to those asked on the police survey were asked of 1,156 suspects interviewed in local jails at the time they were booked following arrest to obtain an independent assessment of officer and suspect use of force (Part 2). The researchers scheduled interviews during shifts throughout the week, but typically during the late evening and early morning hours. Officers were informed that some suspects would be interviewed but they did not know which would be interviewed, or when. Using the items included on the police survey, the research team constructed four measures of force used by police officers -- physical force, physical force plus threats, continuum of force, and maximum force. Four comparable measures of force used by arrested suspects were also developed. These measures are included in the data for Part 1. Each measure was derived by combining specific actions by law enforcement officers or by suspects in various ways. The first measure was a traditional conceptual dichotomy of arrests in which physical force was or was not used. For both the police and for suspects, the definition of physical force included any arrest in which a weapon or weaponless tactic was used. In addition, police arrests in which officers used a more severe restraint (prone cuffing, hobble, body cuff, or leg cuff) were included. The second measure, physical force plus threats, was similar to physical force but added the use of threats and displays of weapons. To address the potential limitations of these two dichotomous measures, two other measures were developed. The continuum-of-force measure captured the levels of force commonly used in official policies by the participating law enforcement agencies. Unlike the previous two measures, the continuum-of-force measures were purposefully responsive to the specific use of force policy and training in each department. To construct the fourth measure, maximum force, 503 experienced officers in five of the six jurisdictions ranked a variety of hypothetical types of force by officers and by suspects on a scale from 1 (least forceful) to 100 (most forceful). Officers were asked to rank these items based, not on department policy, but on their own personal experience. These rankings of police and suspect use of force, which appear in Part 3, were averaged for each jurisdiction and used in Part 1 to weight the behaviors that occurred in the sampled arrests.

Sample:   Convenience sample.

Data Source:

self-enumerated questionnaires, personal interviews, and official records.

Description of Variables:   Variables in Part 1 include jurisdiction, time of arrest (hour, night time, day of week, weekend), type of offense, if the officer was in the patrol division, the suspect's custody status upon arrival by the officer, the officer's prior knowledge of the incident location and prior knowledge of the suspect, if the suspect was impaired by drugs or alcohol, selected inside and outside locations of the arrest, and visibility at the time of the arrest. In regard to persons at the arrest scene, variables include the number of officers, suspects, and bystanders at initial contact and at completion of the arrest, relationships between victim and suspect and bystanders and suspect, if the officer had received prior medical attention, and the race and sex of the first and second officer and the suspect. Age, height, and weight are provided in categories. In regard to the encounter, variables include the type of approach (routine, backup, priority, lights and siren), how the contact was initiated, suspect and bystander demeanor toward police, police demeanor toward the suspect, the suspect's response behaviors to the officer, type of verbal interaction between the suspect and the officer, restraints used, type of flight by the suspect and pursuit by the officer, weaponless tactics used both by the suspect and the police officer, if weapons were possessed, displayed, threatened, or used by the suspect, if weapons were displayed, threatened, or used by the officer, injuries to suspect or officer, and if the suspect or officer received medical attention. Also included are the created variables for the four measures of force mentioned above. Part 2 variables include jurisdiction, time of suspect interview, officer and suspect verbal interaction and attitude toward each other, if the suspect tried to flee and, if so, how the police pursued him, restraints used, types of physical contact between the officer and the suspect, if weapons were possessed, threatened, displayed, or used by the suspect, if weapons were threatened, displayed, or used by the officer, injuries to the suspect, and if the suspect received medical treatment. Also included are the suspect's sex and race, if the suspect was a resident of the city and how long, if the suspect had ever been arrested before, how many times, and if for a felony, if the suspect had been drinking or using drugs prior to arrest, the number of witnesses/bystanders present at the arrest scene, the suspect's relationship to witnesses/bystanders, if the suspect had been or currently was a member of a gang, and if he wore gang colors. Part 3 provides officer rankings on 54 items that suspects might do or say during an arrest. Separately, officers ranked a series of 44 items that a police officer might do or say during an arrest. These items include spitting, shouting or cursing, hitting, wrestling, pushing, resisting, fleeing, commanding, using conversational voice, and using pressure point holds, as well as possession, display, threat of use, or use of several weapons (e.g., knife, chemical agent, dog, blunt object, handgun, motor vehicle).

Response Rates:   Not available.

Presence of Common Scales:   None.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2006-03-30 File UG3172.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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