Research Proposal for Police Brutality

Posted: March 20, 2013 by shannonwatersafety in Uncategorized

Over the years, police brutality has become more and more visible in the public eye. The term “police brutality” was first used in the New York Times in 183, when policeman McManus allegedly clubbed his prisoner, Michael Maher. Brutality, by definition, is savage cruelty. Police brutality is the excessive use of force by police. This force is usually physical, but can also be in the forms of verbal or psychological intimidation. Excessive force can be any kind of unneeded force, above what is legally necessary to use.

Police brutality is an area of research that needs to be expanded, since there is so little research on this, so that we can better understand how common it is and to help us find better solutions to deal with this brutality. I propose to do research combining surveys and case studies from police officers. It will determine how often and why police officers may be involved in brutality. I will begin by taking a sample of police officers from all major cities in British Columbia, and I will be giving them an anonymous survey.

On this survey, the first question will be “In the last 3 months, have you ever engaged in any kind of force against a subject, whether it be excessive or justified?” If the answer to this question is yes, they will then be asked to briefly describe all situations in the last 3 months, stating what force was used, and what the subject had done to receive this force. They will then be asked to rate each situation into an excessive force category, or a justified force category.

After the survey portion is done, an in-depth case study will be done. Each case will be ranked on a scale of 1-5, 1 being ‘more force would be acceptable in this situation’ and 5 being ‘way too much force was used in this situation’. These results will then be compared to how the police officers ranked themselves.

My study will not only determine how often and how much force is used and to what extent, but it will also determine how police officers view the force they have used. With this research, we can use to develop training strategies for police officers on how to deal with force, and how to use force properly, which is why my study should receive funding.


Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. New York, New York: Routledge.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    This sounds like a promising start to a research strategy.

    Your initial survey could offer a good starting point for a study of narratives and accounts – and the distinctions between the official paradigm and the operational code. It could be a means of exploring the different definitions of what constitutes ‘excessive force’ held by police officers in BC.

    I wonder, though – do you think that an anonymous survey will capture the richness of detail necessary to really understand why this problem emerges? Would it be beneficial to add interviews? Is this what you mean by case studies?

    Also, you say that “I will begin by taking a sample of police officers from all major cities in British Columbia”. Does this mean that the study will focus on urban policing in metropolitan centers only? There is evidence that the phenomenon of brutality is not confined to urban spaces – for example, the findings of the HRW study on northern communities.

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