Low Officer Self-Control Linked to Use of Deadly Force

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Police officers who exhibit low self-control in their personal lives are more likely to use deadly force on the job, says a study from the University of Texas at Dallas. The study, published in the journal Police Quarterly, analyzed the responses of 1,935 Philadelphia Police Department officers to determine each officer’s level of self-control. “We know that self-control plays a role in many aspects of a person’s life. We wanted to explore the relationship between self-control and police use of deadly force,” said criminologist Jon Maskaly of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

Researchers measured self-control based on eight indicators, including whether the officer had financial problems or had been in a car accident. Each indicator increased the likelihood of an officer’s involvement in a shooting by 21 percent, the research found. Only 5 percent of officers studied had been involved in shootings, which is the national average. Researchers said the findings suggest that police departments should consider paying more attention to behavioral markers that may reflect lower self-control and increase the use of psychological exams and interviews to better screen candidates.

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