Departmental Professionalism and Its Impact on Indicators of Violence in Police–Citizen Encounters

John A. Shjarback, Michael White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Citizens’ beliefs that officers are employing unnecessary or excessive levels of force can quickly erode police legitimacy and can lead to severe consequences including loss of life, civil disorder, criminal prosecution, and large civil judgments. Although scholars have devoted more than four decades of research to identifying the correlates of police–citizen violence, relatively little study has focused on the relationship between departmental measures of police professionalism and violent outcomes between citizens and officers. The current study uses data from the 2003 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey to examine the impact of five measures of departmental professionalism—(a) agency commitment to education (associate’s degree requirement); (b) the number of hiring or screening standards; (c) the total number of training hours (academy, field training, and in-service); (d) female representation; and (e) agency commitment to community policing—on two indicators of police–citizen violence—(a) citizen complaints alleging excessive use of force and (b) reported assaults on officers—across 526 large municipal law enforcement agencies. Results from ordinary least squares regression analyses show that only departmental commitment to education was related to the police–citizen violence indicators, as agencies that require an associate’s degree experienced fewer citizen complaints of use of force and fewer assaults on their officers. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for police policy and practice, as well as for our understanding of the organizational-level correlates of police–citizen violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-62
Number of pages31
JournalPolice Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • education
  • police
  • professionalism
  • training
  • use of force

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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