Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Sociology

Supervisor

Paul-Philippe Pare

Abstract

Using data from the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2004 (ICPSR 4572) from the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, the goal of this paper is to determine whether or not there are regional variations in the way in which American police officers use force at the time of arrest. Specifically, this paper suggests that lower levels of police-suspect violence are present in the Southern United States owning to a culture of violence. Conversely, higher levels of police-suspect violence are likely to be found in the Northern United States as a result of crimes that can best be explained by routine activity theory. To test these theories, this paper addresses two key hypotheses: 1) lower levels of police force will be found in Southern U.S regions, relative to levels in the North; 2) Regional Characteristics can be used in an effort to predict the level of force used in a police-suspect encounter.

Results indicate that there is a significant (p < .001) negative relationship between Southern residence and police use of force , with weaker relationships found in the West (p < . 05) and the Midwest (p < .10), all relative to the North. This finding suggests that, in fact, police use of force is higher in the Northern states relative to Southern states, and also higher than levels found in the West and Midwest, respectively. Another important finding, however, indicates that when accounting for regional and demographic variables, the most important predictor is the suspect’s use of force towards the officer, which when taken with the previous findings is also higher in the Northern states relative to Southern States.


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