Book Review: When police use force: Context, methods, outcomes

Date01 September 2021
Published date01 September 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
further research and collaboration is needed with respect to the buy in of local police officials,
uniform training, and developing an instit utionalized systems approach that addr esses criminal
justice system reform issues. In closing, this book challenges our current commitment to curb police
misconduct. It serves as a well-articulated foundation that law enforcement practitioners can build
on irrespective of whether or not they agree with Rushin proposal.
Boylstein, C. (2018).
When police use force: Context, methods, outcomes. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. 169 pp. $69.95, ISBN
Reviewed by: Patricia Dooley, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016818798020
In a quantitative study of police use-of-force, Boylstein provides both a historical overview of use-
of-force used by the police and a contemporary look at the topic. Beginning with defining the term
“use-of-force,” the author lays the groundwork for the book through recent literature as well as
historical landmark cases. Boylstein’s book works toward a general understanding of the signifi-
cance of this issue while provoking a need for further research. After laying the groundwork, he
outlines and provides his initial results of the quantitative study of police use-of-force. This book is
more than a starting point for future research; it is a contemporary characterization of the current
status of police use-of-force and the protections in place for both the subject and the officers.
What is police use-of-force? This topic is both intricate and yet easy to understand through
Boylstein’s contextual outline of the book. Through his conceptualization of use-of-force, using
both examples and diagrams gives the reader an overview of the use-of-force continuum. While
Boylstein provides traditional use-of-force continuums, he offers up a revised continuum formed
using social science data. Employing research from both the United States and Canada, Boylstein
notes the ever-evolving continuum and a need to explore the formation and its real-time application
To help facilitate the reader’s understanding of how the use-of-force by the police has evolved,
Boylstein reviews the landmark Supreme Court cases. Beginning in the 1980s, the author discusses
cases that altered the actions allowed and the protections for the police when they exercise their right
to use force. The benchmark cases of Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor established the
requirements for reasonableness in the 1980s. In the 1990s, with ever-increasing tensions, the
Supreme Court approached the issue of differences in the opinion of reasonableness. The author
notes that while what is reasonable will differ on whether the person is a police officer or a subject
the Court will often side with the officer. In the early 2000s, the Supreme Court expanded protec-
tions under qualified immunity until the 2016 limitations where the Supreme Court addresses public
concerns of use-of-force. The beginning of this book addresses the contextual and foundational
aspects of this topic. While the author only attempts to provide the reader with background infor-
mation on the cases, he never misses the chance to discuss that there is always a chance for change.
He encourages further discussion and research into the differences found in both the historical cases
and recent research.
The next section of the book addresses the choices and uses of different secondary data sets for
analysis. The third chapter includes a general outline of the current state of literature and commonly
used databases of use-of-force data. The consensus of his findings is that while police use-of-force is
Book Reviews 385

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