Dissertation Award: Deadly Decisions: Policing Organizations, Use of Force Policies, and Officer-Involved Shootings


This project will assess how police agency organizational characteristics and use of force policies influence rates of officer-involved shootings.

Grant Amount: $25,000

Organization: University of California, Davis

Doctoral Student: Matthew Thompson, sociology, University of California, Davis

Expected Completion Date: mid-2020

Project Summary


Assess the organizational characteristics of police work environments with a focus on how these characteristics influence the discretion officers have and potentially explain rates of fatal and non-fatal shootings.


Three interrelated projects are planned:

  • Test agency characteristics such as size, division of labor, and supervision on fatal and non-fatal use of force counts in a sample of 150 California law enforcement agencies.
  • Test whether restrictiveness of agency use of force policies is associated with fatal incidents among the 100 largest US municipal police departments.
  • Analyze similarity and dissimilarity in use of force policies among municipal, county, and other local California agencies.


Clarifying how police agency policies and organizational characteristics influence officer use of force will help police agencies craft policies that improve public safety.

Doctoral Student

Matthew Thompson, sociology, University of California, Davis. Thompson’s research merges sociological theories of complex organizations and the study of violence to explain variation in police use of force. Previously, he partnered with the University of California Firearm Research Center on statewide efforts to better understand firearm violence.