Study: Divorced Police Officers More Likely To Use Deadly Force

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas reports that factors like divorce and debt increase police officers’ likelihood of using deadly force.

The study titled, “Assessing the Relationship Between Low Self-Control and Officer-Involved Police Shootings” was published in the journal Police Quarterly, focused on indicators in officers’ personal lives.

Researchers gathered data from 1,935 Philadelphia police officers, 5 percent of whom were involved in shootings.

The study found that officers who exhibited poor personal self-control, as determined by eight factors, were more likely to use deadly force. The factors were:

  • a suspended driver’s license
  • traffic accidents
  • termination or dismissal from a job
  • paying bills late
  • loans or debts of more than $1,000
  • court orders
  • divorce or separation
  • traffic tickets in the past five years

For each indicator, likelihood of involvement in a shooting increased 21 percent.

The findings of the study may show a need to continue background checks well into an officer’s career.  All of these indicators are factors in whether someone is hired so presumably officers are encountering these issues once they are on the job and it makes sense that attention is paid to them.  It should be noted that the federal government continues background checks during the entire career of an agent and that is typically done every five years.

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  1. Samuel Fivey

    Unfortunately, I can’t access and read the actual study. All I have to go by is what is printed here and the abstract over at Police Quarterly. So, with that, where to start?

    How about the title, Quick on the Draw? I’m guessing there is a wee bit of bias on the researchers part. There does not appear to have been any look into similar behaviors or concerns in the suspects background. A review of the researchers’ bios as posted with the abstract point to zero actual experience in law enforcement. And, finally, the lead researcher focuses on police misconduct – that appears to indicate a pre-disposition towards believing that any use of deadly force is a failure.

    Going to the factors in the above article – not sure how cops’ work with suspended drivers licenses or how they work if they’ve been terminated or dismissed from their jobs. If one accepts the premise of so-called early warning systems, then on-duty traffic accidents could be, could be, an indicator of issues; being ticketed would be an interesting statistic as well (i think my organization runs our DLs randomly).

    Late on ones’ bills? And debts of more than a grand? So, nearly every consumer in America and everyone with a mortgage are 42% more likely to be in an OIS?

    Divorces may bring personal issues but not everyone is brought on by the office. I would be very concerned about restraining order and most agencies will be as well.

    What I see is yet another academic effort to blame the police for actions and behaviors of the suspects. Again, I have not been able to read the actual study but from the above article and the abstract as well as the researchers information, these are my thoughts.

    Edited to add: Final thought, were all of these indicators present before the shootings that were reviewed? Or did they appear afterward?

    • Katrina

      The article (and the study) felt full of bias while reading it. I agree with your points. Worthless is my much briefer opinion. Another attempt to put police under a microscope looking for bad traits, never good.

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