Study links low self-control, 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, according to a University of Texas at Dallas study.


The study, published online in the journal Police Quarterly, analyzed the responses of 1,935 Philadelphia Police Department officers to determine each officer’s level of .

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, according to the research.

Dr. Jon Maskaly, assistant professor of criminology, and Dr. Alex Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology and associate dean for graduate programs in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, co-wrote the study with researchers at other universities.

“We know that self-control plays a role in many aspects of a person’s life,” Maskaly said. “We wanted to explore the relationship between self-control and police use of deadly force.”

Only 5 percent of the officers studied had been involved in shootings, reflecting the national average. Officers were more likely to be involved in deadly shootings if they scored lower in self-control based on the following factors: a history of a suspended driver’s license, involvement in a , had ever been behind on paying bills, had loans or debts over $1,000, been under any type of court order, been divorced or separated or received a traffic ticket in the past five years.

The findings suggest that departments should consider paying more attention to behavioral markers that may reflect lower self-control and increase the use of psychological exams and…

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