The Understated Ugly Side of Police-Citizen Encounters: Situation, Suspect, Officer, Decision-Making and Force Predictors of Officer Injuries




Policing & Society


Policing is one of the most dangerous occupations and is consistently placed in the top five occupations for injuries and fatalities as a result of occupational violence [Prenzler, T. (2012). Policing and security in practice: challenges and achievements. New York: Palgrave Macmillan]. Police–citizen encounters that involve the use of force present a high risk of injuries to officers. This study used official data from an Australian jurisdiction to explore injuries sustained by officers in 202 police–citizen encounters involving force. The study examined situation, suspect, and officer characteristics, as well as officers’ decision-making and the force level chosen relative to the suspects’ level of resistance. Multiple regression showed the most predictive factors of officer injury were encounters with physically aggressive suspects and situations where police used lower levels of force compared to suspect resistance. Significant effects were also found for crime event and suspect-related variables. The findings of this research help identify what types of incidents provide the greatest risk for police and develop risk reduction strategies.

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