Less Lethal Force Policy and Police Officer Perceptions: A Multisite Examination

William Terrill, Eugene A. Paoline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The relationship between administrative policy and deadly force has been well established in the policing literature. Surprisingly, there has been no similarly oriented research with respect to less lethal force. The current inquiry seeks to start this process. Utilizing data collected from a national multiagency use of force project, we focus on those charged with the street-level application of organizational use of force policy. In doing so, patrol officers (N = 990) from three agencies, each varying in terms of policy direction, are surveyed regarding the extent to which they believe their agency policy offers appropriate forms of guidance and restrictiveness. The findings show a number of significant policy effects. In particular, officers working in a department that uses a loosely coupled nonlinear model are significantly less likely to believe their agency policy offers adequate guidance in terms of when force can and cannot be used. However, the findings also illustrate that officers do not want to be too tightly constrained within a linear policy model in relation to restrictiveness. Such findings suggest that agency leaders may wish to consider a linear-based design that offers some degree of policy guidance, but not so much that force options are overly restricted. The implications of these findings for police practitioners and researchers are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1130
Number of pages22
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • officer perceptions
  • police
  • policy
  • use of force

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law


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