Integrating the Literature on Police Use of Deadly Force and Police Lethal Victimization: How Does Place Impact Fatal Police–Citizen Encounters?

  • Emma E. Fridel
  • Keller G. Sheppard
  • Gregory M. ZimmermanEmail author
Original Paper



Use of lethal force by police officers has incited riots, inspired social movements, and engendered socio-political debate. Police officers also assume a high level of risk during police–citizen encounters. Yet, existing studies tend to center on these two phenomena independently. Additionally, the under-utilization of multilevel research in these areas of inquiry has hampered attempts to empirically disentangle the individual, agency, and contextual correlates of fatal police–citizen encounters. This study integrates the predominantly distinct research bases on these phenomena to examine the contexts in which police use lethal force, relative to the contexts in which officers are killed in the line of duty.


Data were compiled on 6416 citizen fatalities and 709 officer fatalities distributed across 1735 agencies and 1506 U.S. places from 2000 to 2016. A series of three-level logistic regression models examined the civilian and officer characteristics, organizational factors, and contextual features that impacted the odds of citizen fatalities by the police relative to police lethal victimization.


Findings indicated that structural disadvantage increased the odds of police lethal victimization relative to citizen fatalities by the police. Moreover, this contextual effect was, in part, a product of increased firearm usage by citizens who killed police in more disadvantaged areas.


A more complete understanding of fatal police–citizen encounters requires considering police use of lethal force and police lethal victimization concurrently in their broader social contexts.


Police use of lethal force Police lethal victimization Context Concentrated disadvantage Firearm use 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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