Measuring the Continuum of Force Used by and Against the Police

Joel H. Garner, Thomas Schade, John Hepburn, John Buchanan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    109 Scopus citations


    Prior empirical research on the police use of force has conceptualized force in tenrs of simple dichotomnies: lethal force vs. nonlethal force, physical force vs. nonphysical force, and excessive force vs. nonexcessive force. The research has numerous measurement and definition problems and typically has used unsystematic samples. Police professionals employ the concept of a continuum of force; this concept addresses the legal requirements and policy preferences that all use of force by police should be proportionate to the amount of force used against themn. This concept has neither been operationalized as a quantifiable measure nor subjected to empirical research to determine the frequency with which officers encounter specific forms and amounts of resistance. This article reports on a pilot effort to develop explicit measures of the nature and extent of force used by and against police officers. These measures are derived fromn specific behaviors and are formuilated to represent traditional notions of physical force as well as contemporary concepts of the continuum of force. In addition, a prototype mneasure that incorporates some metric qualities is presented. These measures are illustrated with data from 1,585 adult custody arrests in Phoenix, Arizona.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)146-168
    Number of pages23
    JournalCriminal Justice Review
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Sep 1995

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Law


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