The purpose of the present studies was to examine how officer characteristics influenced mock jurors’ judgments in a police use of force case. In study 1 (N = 356), we examined officer race, suspect race, and weapon type (gun vs. taser vs. assault gloves), and in study 2 (N = 352) we examined officer gender, weapon type, and whether the officer was on or off duty. In both studies, participants read a case summary concerning police use of force where the suspect/victim died from his injuries. In study 1, mock jurors were more likely to vote guilty when the officer was White as well as when a gun was used. The officer was perceived most favorably when he was Black and a taser or assault gloves were used compared to a gun. Mock jurors’ attitudes toward the police also were examined and were found to be related to mock jurors’ guilt ratings and perceptions of the officer. In study 2, mock jurors were more likely to vote guilty for the defendant when the officer was male, off duty, and the weapon used was a gun. Mock jurors also viewed the police officer more negatively when he was off duty as well as when a gun was used. Overall, this study is the first to our knowledge to systematically vary both officer characteristics and suspect/victim characteristics and the results suggest that both have the capacity to influence how use of force cases are perceived by potential jurors.

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Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Department of Psychology

Pica, E. (Emily), Sheahan, C.L. (Chelsea L.), Pozzulo, J, & Bennell, C. (2020). Guns, Gloves, and Tasers: Perceptions of Police Officers and Their Use of Weapon as a Function of Race and Gender. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. doi:10.1007/s11896-020-09365-3