Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Stereotypes and deadly force decision-making
by Chaires, Mark R., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2015, 185; 3708014
Abstract (Summary)

The legal and moral issues engendered by police officers' use of deadly force, coupled with its irrevocable nature, render it, arguably, the most impactful decision by any actor within the criminal justice system. Moreover, the fact that African American males are disproportionately the recipients of deadly force exacerbates the impaired relationship between law enforcement and minority communities. Consequently, numerous social scientists have searched for a relationship between the use of deadly force and suspects' race. This dissertation, yet another foray into this tract of research, investigated whether racial stereotypes influenced research participants' deadly force decision-making in time pressured situations?

The dissertation begins with a review of deadly force studies conducted by criminal justice researchers. The discussion then diverges from traditional deadly force studies, in that it drew heavily upon cognitive psychology stereotype research. The study employed a firearms training simulator to present research participants (n = 64) with four interactive video scenarios, during which suspect characteristics, race and dangerousness, were manipulated. In turn, the participants were compelled to decide, within limited time constraints, whether to shoot or refrain from shooting. The participants were assessed on two behaviors: Decision to Shoot/Don't Shoot and Response Latency (time to fire first shot after a weapon became detectable). The results derived from the participants' performance during these experimental trials were analyzed using cross-tabulation analysis, linear and logistic regression models. Additionally, several variables featured in previous deadly force studies were included in the analysis. These variables were captured by means of participants' questionnaire responses.

Findings: Cross-tabulation and logistic regression analysis indicated that research participants' decisions to use deadly force were unrelated to suspects' race. Contrary to the stereotyping hypothesis, unarmed White suspects were more often the recipients of erroneous deadly force decisions. Additionally, multiple linear regression analysis indicated that suspect race had no effect on the time participant's required to render their deadly force decisions.

The dissertation's findings are discussed, in conjunction with, an assessment of the current state of this body of research. Importantly, the author reconciles findings from studies that were previously reported as conflictual. Finally, suggestions for future research are presented.

Keywords: stereotypes, deadly force, bias, racial, firearms simulators, police decision-making.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Worden, Robert E.
Commitee: Acker, James, Bayley, David, Worden, Alissa
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Criminal Justice
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Criminology
Keywords: Bias, Deadly force, Police decision making, Racial, Stereotypes
Publication Number: 3708014
ISBN: 9781321829273
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