Citizen Experience With Police Use of Force: An Examination of National Survey Data

Steven K. Smith, Bureau of Justice Statistics

In 1999 the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collected data from a nationally representative sample of nearly 100,000 persons age 16 or older regarding their face-to-face interaction with the police. This presentation specifically examines these incidents in which citizens reported that the police used force against them. Data are analyzed on the initial reason for the police contact, characteristics of the police officer(s) and citizen, and the type of force used against the citizen. A typology is proposed to identify and describe the different types of police ecounters under which the citizen reported being handcuffed, arrested, or charged with an offense. Information is also described regarding actions taken by the citizen involved in a police use of force incident, such as filing an official complaint. Respondents were asked to describe the incident including any specific actions or behaviors they may have taken to provoke the police. Analysis is done to examine citizen perceptions of their own behavior during the incident and whether they considered their own actions as being provocative. Findings from this national survey are placed in context of previous research conducted in specific locations.

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Updated 05/20/2006