Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Police officer and community relations tensions have heightened with increases in publicized deadly use-of-force incidents on social media platforms. Though some deadly force encounters have been justified because officers stated they feared for their lives, little is known about the impact fear has on police officers' actions. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the impact fear plays when officers implement use-of-force continuum practices during encounters with civilians. Schacter and Singers' two-factor theory of emotion was used as the conceptual framework for this study. The key research question examined the influence of police officer fear as a factor in decision making during use-of-force incidents. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 9 active police officers. Colaizzi's descriptive phenomenological method was used for data analysis. The four emergent themes were: (a) wall of blue, characterized by police culture, (b) being brave not invincible, characterized by civilians expecting police officers to not be human, (c) policing has evolved for the worse, characterized by policing practices to be good in theory but not realistic in practice, and (d) wearing body-worn cameras are a great tool. The key findings of this study were fear of the unknown and fight-or-flight actions are common amongst police officers when they are engaged in use-of-force incidents, and body-worn cameras are a contributing factor in how officers respond. The positive social change implications stemming from this study include recommendations for police leaders where they achieve their mission of partnership with the community and impartially enforce the law by enhancing community relations.