Neighborhood context and police use of force

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

470 Scopus citations


Explanations of police coercion have been traditionally embedded within sociological, psychological, and organizational theoretical frameworks. Largely absent from the research are examinations exploring the role of neighborhood context on police use-of-force practices. Using data collected as part of a systematic social observation study of police in Indianapolis, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida, this research examines the influence of neighborhood context on the level of force police exercise during police-suspect encounters using hierarchical linear modeling techniques. The authors found police officers are significantly more likely to use higher levels of force when suspects are encountered in disadvantaged neighborhoods and those with higher homicide rates, net of situational factors (e.g., suspect resistance) and officer-based determinants (e.g., age, education, and training). Also found is that the effect of the suspect's race is mediated by neighborhood context. The results reaffirm Smith's 1986 conclusion that police officers "act differently in different neighborhood contexts.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-321
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Force
  • Neighborhood disadvantage
  • Police

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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