Title

Officer Use of Force: A Multicase Study of Institutional Betrayal

Date of Degree

12-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program

Education

Advisor

Doshie Piper

Advisor

Audra Skukauskaite

Advisor

Sharon Herbers

Advisor

Alfredo Ortiz Aragon

Abstract

Law enforcement officers in the United States are authorized to utilize force (Alpert & MacDonald, 2001); however, the use of force can cause physical and emotional trauma to the person against whom it is used, and to the person’s loved ones (WHO, 2002; Bloom, 2012; APA, 2013). The needs and rights of traumatized individuals must be addressed for healing to occur (U.S. DOJ, 2013). It was not known if the needs and rights of the survivors of officer use of force were being met. Filling a gap in the literature, this exploratory multicase study investigated 5 use-of-force incidents with demographically diverse participants that occurred between 2009 and 2014 in a county in Texas. The primary purpose was to explore the perspectives of individuals and perspectives of loved ones of individuals who had experienced officer use of force by inquiring about the impacts their experiences had had on them. In-person interviews, expert interviews, and document and archival materials were data sources. The aim was to understand and document what the participants experienced, where they sought relief, what challenges they faced, and the meaning they ascribed to their experiences. Two findings were that the incidents had long-lasting emotional and psychological impacts on participants. A third finding was that the experiences negatively impacted participant attitudes toward and confidence in law enforcement, and for some, in the legal system and social institutions in general. Participant responses made clear that the behavior of officers, their agencies, and the legal system constituted institutional betrayal. The fourth finding was that unlike other groups who experience violence (crime victims, domestic violence victims, child abuse victims, and law enforcement officers) the victims of officer excessive force are unidentified and unacknowledged as trauma victims and do not qualify for any governmentally legislated or agency-recommended services or support.

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