Militarization fails to enhance police safety or reduce crime but may harm police reputation.
ABSTRACT: The increasingly visible presence of heavily armed police units in American communities has stoked widespread concern over the militarization of local law enforcement. Advocates claim militarized policing protects officers and deters violent crime, while critics allege these tactics are targeted at racial minorities and erode trust in law enforcement. Using a rare geocoded census of SWAT team deployments from Maryland, I show that militarized police units are more often deployed in communities with large shares of African American residents, even after controlling for local crime rates. Further, using nationwide panel data on local police militarization, I demonstrate that militarized policing fails to enhance officer safety or reduce local crime. Finally, using survey experiments-one of which includes a large oversample of African American respondents-I show that seeing militarized police in news reports may diminish police reputation in the mass public. In the case of militarized policing, the results suggest that the often-cited trade-off between public safety and civil liberties is a false choice.
Project description:Proactive policing, the strategic targeting of people or places to prevent crimes, is a well-studied tactic that is ubiquitous in modern law enforcement. A 2017 National Academies of Sciences report reviewed existing literature, entrenched in deterrence theory, and found evidence that proactive policing strategies can reduce crime. The existing literature, however, does not explore what the short and long-term effects of police contact are for young people who are subjected to high rates of contact with law enforcement as a result of proactive policing. Using four waves of longitudinal survey data from a sample of predominantly black and Latino boys in ninth and tenth grades, we find that adolescent boys who are stopped by police report more frequent engagement in delinquent behavior 6, 12, and 18 months later, independent of prior delinquency, a finding that is consistent with labeling and life course theories. We also find that psychological distress partially mediates this relationship, consistent with the often stated, but rarely measured, mechanism for adolescent criminality hypothesized by general strain theory. These findings advance the scientific understanding of crime and adolescent development while also raising policy questions about the efficacy of routine police stops of black and Latino youth. Police stops predict decrements in adolescents' psychological well-being and may unintentionally increase their engagement in criminal behavior.
Project description:<label>OBJECTIVES</label>Although social science research has examined police and law enforcement-perpetrated discrimination against Black men using policing statistics and implicit bias studies, there is little quantitative evidence detailing this phenomenon from the perspective of Black men. Consequently, there is a dearth of research detailing how Black men's perspectives on police and law enforcement-related stress predict negative physiological and psychological health outcomes. This study addresses these gaps with the qualitative development and quantitative test of the Police and Law Enforcement (PLE) Scale.<label>METHOD</label>In Study 1, we used thematic analysis on transcripts of individual qualitative interviews with 90 Black men to assess key themes and concepts and develop quantitative items. In Study 2, we used 2 focus groups comprised of 5 Black men each (n = 10), intensive cognitive interviewing with a separate sample of Black men (n = 15), and piloting with another sample of Black men (n = 13) to assess the ecological validity of the quantitative items. For Study 3, we analyzed data from a sample of 633 Black men between the ages of 18 and 65 to test the factor structure of the PLE, as we all as its concurrent validity and convergent/discriminant validity.<label>RESULTS</label>Qualitative analyses and confirmatory factor analyses suggested that a 5-item, 1-factor measure appropriately represented respondents' experiences of police/law enforcement discrimination. As hypothesized, the PLE was positively associated with measures of racial discrimination and depressive symptoms.<label>CONCLUSIONS</label>Preliminary evidence suggests that the PLE is a reliable and valid measure of Black men's experiences of discrimination with police/law enforcement. (PsycINFO Database Record
Project description:Abstract The coronavirus pandemic poses multiple challenges for policing, including the need to continue responding to calls from the public. Several contingency plans warned police to expect a large and potentially overwhelming increase in demand from the public during a pandemic, but (to the author’s knowledge) there is no empirical work on police demand during a major public health emergency. This study used calls-for-service data from 10 large cities in the USA to analyse how calls for service changed during the early months of the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, compared to forecasts of call volume based on data from previous years. Contrary to previous warnings, overall the number of calls went down during the early weeks of the pandemic. There were substantial reductions in specific call types, such as traffic collisions, and significant increases in others, such as calls to dead bodies. Other types of calls, particularly those relating to crime and order maintenance, continued largely as before. Changes in the frequency of different call types present challenges to law enforcement agencies, particularly since many will themselves be suffering from reduced staffing due to the pandemic. Understanding changes to calls in detail will allow police leaders to put in place evidence-based plans to ensure they can continue to serve the public.
Project description:The mechanisms driving the nucleation, spread, and dissipation of crime hotspots are poorly understood. As a consequence, the ability of law enforcement agencies to use mapped crime patterns to design crime prevention strategies is severely hampered. We also lack robust expectations about how different policing interventions should impact crime. Here we present a mathematical framework based on reaction-diffusion partial differential equations for studying the dynamics of crime hotspots. The system of equations is based on empirical evidence for how offenders move and mix with potential victims or targets. Analysis shows that crime hotspots form when the enhanced risk of repeat crimes diffuses locally, but not so far as to bind distant crime together. Crime hotspots may form as either supercritical or subcritical bifurcations, the latter the result of large spikes in crime that override linearly stable, uniform crime distributions. Our mathematical methods show that subcritical crime hotspots may be permanently eradicated with police suppression, whereas supercritical hotspots are displaced following a characteristic spatial pattern. Our results thus provide a mechanistic explanation for recent failures to observe crime displacement in experimental field tests of hotspot policing.
Project description:The practices surrounding police training of complex motor skills, including the use of force, varies greatly around the world, and even over the course of an officer's career. As the nature of policing changes with society and the advancement of science and technology, so should the training practices that officers undertake at both central (i.e., police academy basic recruit training) and local (i.e., individual agency or precinct) levels. The following review is intended to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and applied practice to inform best practices for training complex motor skills that are unique and critical to law enforcement, including the use of lethal force. We begin by providing a basic understanding of the fundamental cognitive processes underlying motor learning, from novel skill acquisition to complex behaviors including situational awareness, and decision-making that precede and inform action. Motor learning, memory, and perception are then discussed within the context of occupationally relevant stress, with a review of evidence-based training practices that promote officer performance and physiological responses to stress during high-stakes encounters. A lack of applied research identifying the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying motor learning in police is inferred from a review of evidence from various clinical populations suffering from disorders of cognitive and motor systems, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and stroke. We conclude this review by identifying practical, organizational, and systemic challenges to implementing evidence-based practices in policing and provide recommendations for best practices that will promote training effectiveness and occupational safety of end-users (i.e., police trainers and officers).
Project description:Policing is an important structural determinant of HIV and other health risks faced by vulnerable populations, including people who sell sex and use drugs, though the role of routine police encounters is not well understood. Given the influence of policing on the risk environment of these groups, methods of measuring the aggregate impact of routine policing practices are urgently required. We developed and validated a novel, brief scale to measure police patrol practices (Police Practices Scale, PPS) among 250 street-based female sex workers (FSW) in Baltimore, Maryland, an urban setting with high levels of illegal drug activity. PPS items were developed from existing theory and ethnography with police and their encounters with FSW, and measured frequency of recent (past 3 months) police encounters. The 6-item scale was developed using exploratory factor analysis after examining the properties of the original 11 items. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to model the factor structure. A 2-factor model emerged, with law enforcement PPS items and police assistance PPS items loading on separate factors. Linear regression models were used to explore the relative distribution of these police encounters among FSW by modeling association with key socio-demographic and behavioral characteristics of the sample. Higher exposure to policing was observed among FSW who were homeless (? = 0.71, p = 0.037), in daily sex work (? = 1.32, p = 0.026), arrested in the past 12 months (? = 1.44, p<0.001) or injecting drugs in the past 3 months (? = 1.04, p<0.001). The PPS provides an important and novel contribution in measuring aggregate exposure to routine policing, though further validation is required. This scale could be used to evaluate the impact of policing on vulnerable populations' health outcomes, including HIV risk.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Homeless people who use drugs (PWUD) are often displaced, detained, and/or forced into drug treatment during police crackdowns. Such operations follow a zero-tolerance approach to law enforcement and have a deleterious impact on the health of PWUD. In Mexico, municipal police officers (MPOs) conducted the largest crackdown documented at the Tijuana River Canal (Tijuana Mejora) to dismantle an open drug market. We analyzed active-duty MPOs' attitudes on the rationale, implementation, and outcomes of the crackdown. We also included the involvement of non-governmental allies in the disguised imprisonment as drug treatment referral and potential legal consequences of having illegally detained PWUD. METHODS:Between February-June 2016, 20 semi-structured interviews were conducted with MPOs in Tijuana. Interviews were transcribed, translated and coded using a consensus-based approach. Emergent themes, trends and frameworks were analyzed through a hermeneutic grounded theory protocol. RESULTS:Participants recognized the limitations of Tijuana Mejora in effectively controlling crime and addressing drug treatment solutions. MPOs perceived that the intent of the operation was to displace and detain homeless PWUD, not to assist or rehabilitate them. The police operation was largely justified as a public safety measure to reduce the risk of injury due to flooding, decrease drug consumption among PWUD and protect local tourism from PWUD. Some participants perceived the crackdown as a successful public health and safety measure while others highlighted occupational risks to MPOs and potential human rights violations of PWUD. CONCLUSIONS:Tijuana Mejora illustrated why public and private actors align in enforcing zero-tolerance drug policy. Perceptions of care are often based on captivity of the diseased, not in health and well-being of PWUD. Officer perceptions shed light on the many limitations of this punitive policing tool in this context. A shift towards evidence-based municipal strategies to address drug use, wherein police are perceived as partners in harm reduction rather than antagonists, is warranted.
Project description:Stress experienced by law enforcement officers is often extreme and is in many ways unique among professions. Although past research on officer stress is informative, it is limited, and most studies measure stress using self-report questionnaires or observational studies that have limited generalizability. We know of no research studies that have attempted to track direct physiological stress responses in high fidelity, especially within an operational police setting. The outcome of this project will have an impact on both practitioners and policing researchers. To do so, we will establish a capacity to obtain complex, multisensor data; process complex datasets; and establish the methods needed to conduct idiopathic clinical trials on behavioral interventions in similar contexts.The objective of this pilot study is to demonstrate the practicality and utility of wrist-worn biometric sensor-based research in a law enforcement agency.We will use nonprobability convenience-based sampling to recruit 2-3 participants from the police department in Durham, North Carolina, USA.Data collection was conducted in 2016. We will analyze data in early 2017 and disseminate our results via peer reviewed publications in late 2017.We developed the Biometrics & Policing Demonstration project to provide a proof of concept on collecting biometric data in a law enforcement setting. This effort will enable us to (1) address the regulatory approvals needed to collect data, including human participant considerations, (2) demonstrate the ability to use biometric tracking technology in a policing setting, (3) link biometric data to law enforcement data, and (4) explore project results for law enforcement policy and training.
Project description:This research builds on three decades of effort to produce national estimates of the amount and rate of force used by law enforcement officers in the United States. Prior efforts to produce national estimates have suffered from poor and inconsistent measurements of force, small and unrepresentative samples, low survey and/or item response rates, and disparate reporting of rates of force. The present study employs data from a nationally representative survey of state and local law enforcement agencies that has a high survey response rate as well as a relatively high rate of reporting uses of force. Using data on arrests for violent offenses and the number of sworn officers to impute missing data on uses of force, we estimate a total of 337,590 use of physical force incidents among State and local law enforcement agencies during 2012 with a 95 percent confidence interval of +/- 10,470 incidents or +/- 3.1 percent. This article reports the extent to which the number and rate of force incidents vary by the type and size of law enforcement agencies. Our findings demonstrate the willingness of a large proportion of law enforcement agencies to voluntarily report the amount of force used by their officers and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) program to produce nationally representative information about police behavior.
Project description:To assess the association between risk of sudden cardiac death and stressful law enforcement duties compared with routine/non-emergency duties.Case distribution study (case series with survey information on referent exposures).United States law enforcement.Summaries of deaths of over 4500 US police officers provided by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the Officer Down Memorial Page from 1984 to 2010.Observed and expected sudden cardiac death counts and relative risks for sudden cardiac death events during specific strenuous duties versus routine/non-emergency activities. Independent estimates of the proportion of time that police officers spend across various law enforcement duties obtained from surveys of police chiefs and front line officers. Impact of varying exposure assessments, covariates, and missing cases in sensitivity and stability analyses.441 sudden cardiac deaths were observed during the study period. Sudden cardiac death was associated with restraints/altercations (25%, n=108), physical training (20%, n=88), pursuits of suspects (12%, n=53), medical/rescue operations (8%, n=34), routine duties (23%, n=101), and other activities (11%, n=57). Compared with routine/non-emergency activities, the risk of sudden cardiac death was 34-69 times higher during restraints/altercations, 32-51 times higher during pursuits, 20-23 times higher during physical training, and 6-9 times higher during medical/rescue operations. Results were robust to all sensitivity and stability analyses.Stressful law enforcement duties are associated with a risk of sudden cardiac death that is markedly higher than the risk during routine/non-emergency duties. Restraints/altercations and pursuits are associated with the greatest risk. Our findings have public health implications and suggest that primary and secondary cardiovascular prevention efforts are needed among law enforcement officers.