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Do policy and training changes influence patterns of police use of force? An interrupted time-series analysis

Alexis Rain Rockwell (Criminal Justice and Criminology, Sam Houston State University , Huntsville, Texas, USA)
Stephen A. Bishopp (Dallas Police Department, Dallas, Texas, USA) ( School of Public Health , University of Texas , Dallas, Texas, USA)
Erin A. Orrick (Criminal Justice and Criminology, Sam Houston State University , Huntsville, Texas, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 December 2020

Issue publication date: 27 May 2021

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367

Abstract

Purpose

The current study examines the effect of changing a specific use-of-force policy coupled with de-escalation training implementation on patterns of police use of force.

Design/methodology/approach

An interrupted time-series analysis was used to examine changes in police use-of-force incident records gathered from a large, southwestern US metropolitan police department from 2013 to 2017 based on a TASER policy change and de-escalation training implementation mid-2015.

Findings

Results demonstrate that changes to use-of-force policy regarding one type of force (i.e. use of TASERs) coinciding with de-escalation training influence the prevalence of use-of-force incidents by increasing the reported police use-of-force incidents after the changes were implemented. This finding is somewhat consistent with prior literature but not always in the desired direction.

Practical implications

When police departments make adjustments to use-of-force policies and/or trainings, unintended consequences may occur. Police administrators should measure policy and training outcomes under an evidence-based policing paradigm prior to making those adjustments.

Originality/value

This study is the first to measure the effects of changing use-of-force policy and implementing de-escalation techniques in training on patterns of police use of force and shows that these changes can have a ripple effect across types of force used by police officers.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge that the structure and availability of the data from only a single agency do not allow for the inclusion of a separate control group. However, they argue that the timing of the data collection and implementation of the interventions allowed them to capture time periods when other major incidents did not occur in the city. There were no major changes in government, the mayor was consistent throughout the data collection period and the police chief remained the same until the very end of the study period. Furthermore, the large number of data collection points pre- and post-interventions are sufficient enough to capture any underlying trends or the impact any larger events may have had on force usage throughout the agency.

Citation

Rockwell, A.R., Bishopp, S.A. and Orrick, E.A. (2021), "Do policy and training changes influence patterns of police use of force? An interrupted time-series analysis", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 469-482. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-07-2020-0128

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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