Criminal Justice Research

The debate on use of force by various law enforcements agencies has gained momentum over the years and triggered inquiry into the matter. Two major studies have been conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1996 and in 1999. Other independent agencies have also done research on the matter. The 1996 study was carried out by the Census Bureau and interviewed 6,421 respondents aged 12 years and above. Prior to the start of the data collection, a pilot survey was carried out that gave the researchers more insight into the variables that could be considered in the actual survey.

The aim of the survey was to understand the extent of use of force by police when they came into contact with the public. The study was to probe into the causes of police-public contact (Greenfeld, Langan & Smith, 1997). The concept of use of force by police officers involves the police officers threatening to use force or actually applying force. The force used takes many forms including but not limited to pushing, grabbing, being kicked or hit and other forms of physical force.

Other forms of use of force are use of chemical substances and the use of pepper thrown at the citizens by the police. The 1996 study had limitations. First, the sample was small and the results could not be deemed representative of current trends. The results were also not tested for significance as is the case in most statistical enquiries. In depth analysis was therefore not possible (Greenfeld, 1997). The second study of 1999 studied 94,717 persons aged 16 years and above.

One objective of the study was to probe more on demographic factors and how police–public contact interacted with these factors. The study also aimed to probe more into traffic matters by asking more questions than in other forms of police-public contact where force was applied. The extent of force used by the police in the study was also sought as well as the opinion of the respondents on whether the force was justifiable. The study allowed a more in depth analysis of the underlying factors that influence the use of force by the police officers.

The sample selected was large enough to be representative of the entire population. The survey sought to identify the initiator of the contact to enable researchers assess whether respondents were biased in their judgment on the police who applied some form of force (Langan et al, 2001). The findings of the 1996 study were presented in diagrams, figures and charts as well as in discussions on a report. The findings were broken down by factors to enable clearer flow of information.

The findings of the 1999 study were presented in much the same way only that the results were more detailed. The findings skewed heavily on traffic matters as had been the objective of the study. The better way of presenting the findings of later studies would be by making comparisons with the findings of previous studies. Upcoming research findings should be made understandable to all persons with limited use of statistical terms or in case the terms are used, explanation should be offered. There are also other items that require further definition.

The use of items like “excessive force” should explain what is entailed in excessive. The extent of the excessiveness should be clearly indicated (Langan, 2001). The 1996 findings indicated that slightly over 20% of the population had come into contact with the police with Hispanics and Blacks coming into contact more often. Less than 1% persons were handcuffed with men, minority groups and persons below 30 years being more prone to handcuffing. 0. 2% of the population reported being hit, pushed, chocked or threatened by the officers (Greenfeld, 1997).

The 1999 findings indicate that approximately 422,000 persons who had contact with the police were either threatened with use of force or they actually encountered use of force. Again, the Hispanics and Blacks were more likely to encounter use or threatened force by police officers. The types of force mostly used by the police were grabbing the respondent or pushing them. Results also indicated that the reasons for use of force were because of arguments with the police, resisting or disobeying the officer or respondents having used drugs, prior to the contact.

About 75 percent of the respondents suggested that the force was excessive while over 90% of the respondents who had encountered use of force thought that the officers acted improperly (Langan, 2001). Current research objectives study racial differences in the extent of use of force by the police. The researches also intend to probe into ethnic disparities in the event of use of force. The studies probe more into traffic incidences because they have been found to be the major contributors to use of force by the police when they came into contact with citizens.

The current studies have incorporated some elements of British studies that allow more comparative inquiry with data from other countries (Maxfield, & Babbie, 2005). Today the research on use of force is more focused than before. Objectives are clearly set out at the offset of the study and justification is given to back up the study. Previously, no much literature review was available but currently so much has been published and it guides the researchers in identifying researchable topics for further probing.

Stratified random sampling is used where each state is treated as a stratum and simple random sampling used to pick samples within the strata. Data is mostly collected by questionnaires but also telephone interviews have gained popularity as a quicker method. Today the variables of interest are defined at the onset of the study as the surveys are more quantitative than qualitative (Maxfield, 2005). The measurement in every research should be communicated so that they clearly eliminate ambiguity with other measurements. Measurement requires communication to be perfect.

The findings of any research have a variety of consumers ranging from those in the justice system, professors and the common citizens. The language for each group of consumers should match their expectations (Maxfield, 2005). Chart 1: Types of Force Used by the Police in the 1999 Survey KEY 1. Pushed or grabbed with no push – 28% 2. Pushed or grabbed with pain – 40% 3. Kicked or hit – 9% 4. Sprayed chemical pepper – 7% 5. pointed a gun – 15% 6. Other – 7% Percentages do not add up to 100% because some respondents reported more than one type of force.

The chart indicates that majority of the respondents on whom force was used by the police were pushed or grabbed inflicting pain. From the chart it is evident that the police apply force by pushing citizens or grabbing them sometimes causing harm to them (Langan, 2001). Chart 2: Persons Searched by the Police in the 1996 Survey Key 1. Percentage Not Handcuffed -30% 2. Percentage Handcuffed -70% Chart 2 above indicates that of those searched by the police without their consent, 70% of them ended up being handcuffed or threatened with use of force (Greenfeld, 1997)..

References Greenfeld, L. A. , Langan, P. A, & Smith, S. K. (1997). Police Use of Force: Collections of National Data. Available from World Wide Web: http://www. ojp. usdoj. gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pouf. pdf Langan, P. A, et al. (2001). Contacts between Police and the Public: Findings from the 1999 National Survey. Retrieved from World Wide Web: http://www. ojp. usdoj. gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cpp99. pdf Maxfield, M. G & Babbie, E. R (2005) Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology. Wadsworth Publishing