Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Heather A. Mbaye
The amount of force used by law enforcement officers has become a highly-charged topic, especially among racial minority citizens and the law enforcement community. While the use of force by police officers is permitted by law enforcement agencies and expected by citizens, the amount and type of force used can trigger or cause problems, such as distrust or loss of confidence for the police agency, if the public perceives the force to be unjustified. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the use of force by police officers and how to improve the relationship between racial minority citizens and law enforcement. Using Rawls' social justice theory as the foundation, the purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how the perceptions of the police use of force differ among racial minority citizens and police officers in a southern state. Data were collected from 20 racial minority citizens over the age of 18 from two southern cities who agreed to participate in my study. Additionally, 21 completed surveys were collected from current or retired law enforcement officers. Interview and survey data were inductively coded and subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. Survey data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Findings indicate there needs to be more accountability on the use of force by the police, with many citizens feeling the police cannot be trusted. Both groups suggested perceptions are often influenced by the media, which may provide incorrect information. Results of this study may lead to positive social change with racial minority citizens and the law enforcement community by refining police policies and enhancing police training programs on the use of force. If changes are made, the relationship between the law enforcement community and racial minority citizens could ultimately improve perceptions on the use of force.