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Law Enforcement Use of Force: An Analysis of the Literature in Criminal Justice and Psychology

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Highly publicized cases involving citizen fatalities due to police use of force raise questions about perceptions of danger. Arrest-related deaths due to weapons, accidental injuries, and natural causes remain high year after year. Communities are greatly affected, and mistrust with

Highly publicized cases involving citizen fatalities due to police use of force raise questions about perceptions of danger. Arrest-related deaths due to weapons, accidental injuries, and natural causes remain high year after year. Communities are greatly affected, and mistrust with the police continues to increase when these situations happen. There seem to be inaccurate perceptions that may stem from implicit associations, stereotypes, and social learning. These psychological concepts may provide theoretical explanations of how decisions are made when police officers are faced with danger. Some elements of this decision-making process may include suspect characteristics, officer experience, and police sub-culture. In this review, race/ethnicity and socio-economic status are examined as factors that contribute to police use of force. Disparities in use of force data often involve young, Black males living in low-income neighborhoods. The stereotype that this group is more dangerous than others stems from underlying prejudices and previous situations where Black people are targeted more in certain areas. Training, education, and community outreach programs can assist in mending relations between police and affected communities. Acknowledging these inaccurate perceptions, making the adjustments to police training and community relations, and being open to exploration in future research of other minority groups will assist in eliminating prejudices and creating better connections between law enforcement and the community.

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Date Created
2017-05