Police Coercion: Application of the Force Continuum

Police Coercion: Application of the Force Continuum
William Terrill
June 2001

ISBN-13:  978-1-931202-09-1 / Hardcover
Dimensions:  5.5 x 8.5 / viii, 288 pages

Price   $70.00

"a must read" -- Criminal Justice Review


Terrill applies an innovative approach, the Resistance Force Comparative Scale, to examine the extent to which police behavior adheres to an "incrementalist" approach of escalating and de-escalating force in relation to citizen resistence.

Using observational data from two cities, Terrill studies police use of force to better understand how and why officers resort to force. He examines the extent of force within individual police-citizen encounters and tests numerous theoretical perspectives (sociological, psychological, and organizational) concerning why officers resort to force. Further he offers the Resistance Force Comparative Scale as a means for examining how officers move about the force continuum.

Results show that officers use higher levels of force on male, nonwhite, poor, young, and intoxicated citizens, offering primary support within a sociological theoretical framework. Surprisingly, however, officers are not more forceful toward disrespectful citizens. Analyses also reveal that officers differentially escalate and de-escalate force according to the presence and nature of citizen resistance. Interestingly, offivers do not jump at the opportunity to use force on resistant suspects, offering instead a second chance to comply before applying increased levels of force.

About the Author

William Terrill is Assistant Professor in the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. He earned his Ph.D. in 2000 from the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, Newark.