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Use of Force in Policing  

Ian T. Adams and Geoffrey P. Alpert

Police officers wield the authority to use force in pursuit of lawful objectives, which significantly impacts the public perception of policing legitimacy. Previous research findings continue to document more questions than answers, but the gaps in knowledge are slowly closing. While various actors review the appropriateness of police use of force, the primary sources for the rules of conduct are the courts, specifically the appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. Technological advancements and theoretical developments offer practitioners and researchers innovative avenues to enhance the capacity to examine, forecast, and regulate the application of police force.

Article

Causes and Consequences of Police Self-Legitimacy  

Heather Prince, Kiseong Kuen, and Danielle S. Rudes

In recent years, research on policing, police legitimacy, and police decision-making has increased dramatically in part due to several high-profile police use of force and deadly shooting incidents in the United States. This line of studies largely focuses on individual-level factors such as police procedural justice during interactions with citizens from the perspective of the public. However, a growing body of studies suggests that police authority and legitimacy is not only formed by citizens’ evaluations and perceptions derived from police behaviors during the interactions. It is also shaped by factors from both individual-level and structural-level external sources of police organizations, such as citizens’ animus toward the police and crime rates of the jurisdiction. More importantly, research suggests that police culture and organizational-level factors, such as organizational justice and feeling recognition from others in an organization, play large roles in shaping officers’ self-legitimacy. The sense of low self-legitimacy derived from the above sources can lead officers to make racially biased decisions to reinforce their legitimate status with the public. Officers’ decision-making as well as their perceptions of self-legitimacy, by interacting each other, can play crucial roles in police negative behaviors toward citizens, such as use of deadly force, especially toward racial minorities. Some organizations have implemented changes such as implicit bias and procedural justice trainings, or body-worn camera requirements, but changes must be made at the overall organizational level to reduce racially biased police decision-making.

Article

Body Cameras and Policing  

Bryce Elling Peterson and Daniel S. Lawrence

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are small devices that police officers can affix to their person—in a head-, shoulder-, or chest-mounted position—that can audio and video record their interactions with community members. BWCs have received strong support from the public and, in recent years, widespread buy-in from police leadership and officers because of their ability to improve accountability and transparency and enhance the collection of evidence. Implementation guidelines recommend that officers activate their BWCs during each officer–citizen interaction and inform the people they encounter that they are being recorded. Early research on this technology found that officers equipped with body cameras were significantly less likely to engage in force and receive citizen complaints. However, more recent studies with larger samples have had mixed findings about the impact of body cameras on use of force, citizen complaints, and other police activities and behaviors. Numerous legal and ethical considerations are associated with BWCs, including their implications for privacy concerns and public disclosure. However, police officials, policymakers, civil rights groups, and the public must continue to weigh these privacy concerns against the potential for BWCs to enhance police accountability and transparency. Future scholarship should focus on the degree to which BWCs can improve police–community relations and yield valuable evidence for both criminal cases and internal investigations.

Article

Militarization of Law Enforcement in America  

Frederic Lemieux

Police militarization refers to the process by which law enforcement agencies (LEAs) increasingly acquire and use military-grade equipment, tactics, and training in their operations. This includes the use of weapons, vehicles, and tactics that were previously associated with military operations, such as armored vehicles, assault rifles, and Special Weaponry and Tactics teams. Militarization of the police can also refer to adopting a more aggressive and confrontational approach to policing, which emphasizes the use of force and intimidation to maintain order, rather than community engagement and problem solving. This approach can lead to a breakdown of trust between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve, and can exacerbate tensions between police and marginalized communities. The increasing militarization of police forces in the United States can be traced back to the 1980s, when the U.S. Congress passed the Military Cooperation With Law Enforcement Act, which allowed the military to provide local LEAs with surplus military equipment. This program was expanded in the 1990s and 2000s, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the 1033 Program. These policies and strategies directly contributed to the use of aggressive and lethal tactics by LEAs in the United States and abroad.