Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Hibdon, Julie


Police use of force has received substantial recognition from scholars, especially the impact that place dynamics play in shaping force incidents. The research surrounding use of force has focused mainly on individual and situational variables and what is limited in past research is the consideration of the event setting in accounting for the influence of different variables on police use of force. For example, prior research has demonstrated the significant influence of situational factors such as suspect resistance while ecological and setting factors such as residential instability, concentrated disadvantage, and crime have not been given similar attention. Yet, police use of force may vary in different areas characterized by higher levels of crime and concentrated disadvantage. This suggests that residents who live in high crime areas may be exposed to more frequent or more severe forms of force. The primary objective of this study is to understand the variation in police use of force within census tracts and at street segments. By drawing on police use of force reports, two analytical procedures are undertaken to measure the link between force incidents and community and street dynamics. The first model examines the frequency of force using a two-level negative binomial regression. The analyses show that calls for service, crime incidents, and nonresidential land uses are likely driving variation in the force frequency at street segments. The results at the level-two unit of analysis (census tracts) demonstrate that the odds of using force become significantly higher in commercial, concentrated disadvantage, and violent crime tracts. The second model seeks to analyze the severity of force. A three-level multivariate analysis is applied to account for the spatial nesting of force encounters within both streets and tracts. Results demonstrate that street- and neighborhood-level dynamics such as violent calls for service, violent crime incidents, and commercial land uses elicit higher levels of force. Extralegal factors such as suspect race and resistance persisted as the most powerful predictors of levels of force even after incorporating the context variables. Findings highlight the important role that micro places play in understanding the multivariate variables affecting police use of force at different levels of aggregation. Furthermore, the study concludes that it is useful to disaggregate crime and calls for service events into different types in an effort to identify their relation to police use of force types.




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