Sociology ETDs

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In general, the literature suggests that police behaviors, such as the use of lethal force, can be controlled by placing limits on police discretion. One way to achieve this is through policy. Officers tend to use lethal force less frequently in cities where restrictive deadly force policies are in place. By the same token, research indicates that lethal force incidents are more prevalent in cities with 1) larger minority populations, and 2) greater levels of economic disadvantage. In this study, I examine how each of these factors (policy, minority population size, and economic disadvantage) affect police use of deadly force independent of each other, and whether policy mediates the effect of the other variables. Using data from the Supplementary Homicide Reports from 1980-1984, I use negative binomial regression models to examine how racial threat, economic disadvantage, and restrictive policy affect police use of deadly force, whether policy mediates the effects of these other variables, and finally, whether the effects of policy are conditional on city-level threat and disadvantage. I estimate models for both total population and race-specific models so that I can test whether the effects on police use of lethal force vary between blacks and whites. Results indicate strong direct effects for policy, but not racial threat or economic disadvantage. Further, no mediating or conditional effects were found. These findings suggest that police discretion can play an important role in controlling police behavior, such as the use of deadly force.

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First Advisor

Broidy, Lisa

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lyons, Christopher

Second Committee Member

Roberts, Aki


Police shootings--United States--Social aspects, Police shootings--United States--Psychological aspects, Police shootings--United States--Economic aspects



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