Police Use Of Force And Suspect Resistance: The Micro Process Of The Police-Suspect Encounter

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138 Scopus citations


Using data collected as part of an observational study of the police in Indianapolis, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida, this research examines 3,544 police-suspect encounters in an attempt to better understand the application of nonlethal force and the relationship between officer use of force and suspect resistance. More specifically, it examines the extent of and variation in force and resistance and the interplay between the two. Results show that when both verbal and physical forms of coercion are considered, force occurs quite frequently—in more than half of all encounters. Conversely, suspects displayed some form of resistance in 12% of all encounters. When multiple uses of force and resistance within individual encounters are considered, the frequency of both behaviors increases substantially. In addition, a majority of both forceful and resistant behaviors fall on the lower end of continuum (e.g., verbal commands as opposed to striking with a baton). Encounters that began with some form of force resulted in a greater frequency of subsequent suspect resistance and an increased use of additional force at some later point in the encounters—calling into question the utility of a “take charge” approach to maintaining control within police-suspect encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-83
Number of pages33
JournalPolice Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • coercion
  • force
  • micro process
  • police
  • resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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