Police use of force: a contextual study of 'suicide by cop' within the British Police paradigm

Masters Thesis

Francis, N. 2019. Police use of force: a contextual study of 'suicide by cop' within the British Police paradigm. Masters Thesis Cantebury Christ Church University School of Law, Criminal Justice and Policing
AuthorsFrancis, N.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMSc by Research

The phenomenon of ‘Suicide by Cop’ (SbC) may be described as a ‘high impact low probability’ type of event occurring where a vulnerable individual, with ‘lethality of means’, initiates self-destructive violent conduct. Necessary to sustain public confidence and police legitimacy, research to understand the police response to SbC is deficient in England & Wales (E&W).
By understanding the theories, challenges and operational reality of mitigating a vulnerable individual’s SbC ideation, this research seeks to develop a fuller comprehension of the use of force (UoF) paradigm within an E&W policing context. Using a mixed method approach, a survey questionnaire (n=315) and published UoF Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) dataset
(n=132,410) was statistically analysed. Comparing MPS TASER and authorised firearms officer’s UoF, this research analyses the response, effectiveness and limitations of policing high-risk persons. The findings indicate the sample response to a ‘high-risk’ person is statistically similar, implying a minimal difference in decision making or application of force. The influence of training appears a factor in mitigating threat or risk and the proficiency of any response. This research indicates that firearms officers enhanced training conditions a ‘primed’ response, reducing cognitive burden and enabling the use of other de-escalation tactics. This thesis argues the occurrence of SbC or similar averted ‘near miss’ type incidents is not measured and is reliant on post-incident investigations to improve operational practise. This research concludes implying the mode of arming and use of force paradigm within an E&W context may innately restrain police use of fatal force.

KeywordsSuicide by cop; Theories; Challenges; Force paradigm; Policing; Police
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Deposited04 Jun 2020
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