The Determinants of Excessive Police Force

Awarded Scholars:
Joscha Legewie, Yale University
Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University
Project Date:
Nov 2016
Award Amount:

Excessive use of force by police officers remains a matter of concern and a divisive political issue. Yet, research on variations in officer-involved killings is rare, primarily due to the lack of reliable data. Sociologist Joscha Legewie and law and policy expert Jeffrey Fagan will compile and analyze two comprehensive datasets on police killings, one that collects all incidents between 2013 and 2015; and another that collects all incidents in the largest 50 police departments between 2000 and 2015. 

Drawing on conflict and group threat theories, the investigator will explore whether minority representation in police departments both reduces police killings directly, and mitigates group threat, thereby lowering the number of officer-involved killings. They will also investigate whether significant crime events, such as the shooting of a police officer, increase the use of police force against minority groups through their effect on intergroup conflict, perceptions of minority threat, racial stereotypes, and concerns about personal safety among officers. 


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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