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EvaluationThis article of "What We Know About Police Use of Force" is helping in putting police use of force into context in order to understand the potential magnitude of use of force problems

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“What We Know About Police Use of Force”

by: Kenneth Adams


Police use of force is one of the most sensitive subjects in American policing history. This subject has been depicted in many different ways. It’s a subject of what is too much and when should it be used. Finding the thesis of this article was quite a chore for me. I feel that Adams thesis is that it is important to put police use of force in context in order to understand the potential magnitude of use of force problems. Putting this issue into context will help reduce some future conflicts, issues and help gain a greater degree of control over use of force used by the police. He also discusses the importance of society striving to minimize police use of force as much as possible.


This article consists of results from of many different references and sources. The references and sources used in this article are very knowledgeable and are helpful in coming to a conclusion about police use of force.

  • In helping to bring understanding about the topic, Joel H. Garner and Christopher D. Maxwell are referenced by using their work “ Measuring the amount of force used by and against it police in six jurisdictions” which is found in Use of Force by Police, National Institute of Justice-Research Report.  (P. 133-134)
  • Also helping this article was information by Geoffrey P. Alpert and Roger G. Dunham. These men collaborated together to compose “The Force Factor” which can be found also in the National Institute of Justice-Research Report.    (P. 133, 135)
  • There were many other sources of information about this topic. Here are some of the extra sources of research support used Adams article:
  1. Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary that was published in 1958.  (P.130)
  2. A previous summary of research on police use of force that can be found in, National Data Collection of Police Use of Force, Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice by Tom Ewen.
  3. The research gathered by Lawerence Greenfield, Patrick Langan and Steven Smith, all apart of the U.S. Department of Justice, named Police Use of Force: Collection of National Data.
  4. The work of Kenneth Adams himself called “Measuring the Prevalence of Police Abuse of Force,” in Justice For All: A National Agenda for Understanding and Controlling Police Abuse of Force, ed. William A. Geller and Hans Toch. (P. 139)
  5. A source that is used a lot throughout Adams article is information that has been conceived by The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS).  (P. 132-135)
  6. Articles by David Bayley and James Garofalo titled “The Management of Violence by Police Patrol Officers” and “Patrol Officer Effectiveness in Managing Conflict During Police-Citizen Encounters”.  (P. 136)


From the Kenneth Adams’ assessment of police use of force the references and sources tell us:

What we know with substantial confidence about police use of force mainly is

  • police use force infrequently.
  • police use of force typically occurs at the lower end of the force spectrum, involving grabbing pushing, or shoving.
  • use of force typically occurs when police are trying to make an arrest and the suspect is resisting.

These are facts that support these main topics:

  • The Bureau of Statistics’ (BJS) says
...read more.


out of 6,421 persons, 14 respondents, or roughly 1 in 450, said that they were subjected to used of force or threat of force by police over a year’s time.out of the 14 respondents who reported that police used or threatened force against them, 10 suggested that they might have provoked the officer to use force.handcuffing is included in the BJS definition of force, the number of person’s increases to 1.2 million.it is estimated that about 500,000 people were “hit, held, pushed, choked, threatened with a flashlight, restrained by a police dog, threatened or actually sprayed with chemical or pepper spray, threatened with a gun, or experienced some other form of force. Three-fifths of these situations involved holding.
  • Garner and Maxwell found that physical force (excluding handcuffing) is used in less than one of five adult custody arrests.
  • Also they observed that police use weaponless tactics in roughly 80 percent of use of force incidents and that half the time the tactic involved grabbing the suspect.
  • 2.1 percent of custody arrests involved use of weapons by police. Chemical agents were the weapons most frequently used (1.2 percent of arrest), while firearms were the weapons least often used (0.2 percent of arrests).
  • After using statistical controls for more than 50 characteristics of the arrest situation, the suspect, and the police officer, found that forceful action by suspects was the strongest and most consistent predictor of use of force by police.
...read more.


I found this article to be very informative about police use of force. I learned from this article that police use of force is something that isn’t used as frequently as I thought. From watching television and hearing reports on the radio, I believed that police used force a lot more often than statistics show. Another thing I learned was that Police used of force is more likely to occur when the perpetrator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

This article is very helpful to society who questions or has concerns about the whole aspect of police use of force. The article is beneficial to society because it helps address issues and give factual information to those who are unclear about the issue.

“What We Know About Police Use of Force” is an article based on the researching of Kenneth Adams. Even though he found answers to many questions about the topic of use of force by the police, he stated himself that there isn’t enough information to come to conclusions about some issues that have arise. He states a few times in the article that more research is necessary to come to a conclusion. The publication of this article was in 1999. I feel that the study of police use of force should be replicated to update the statistics and keep the public or society informed.

...read more.

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