When Suspects Resist Arrest: Prevalence, Correlates, and Implications for Front-Line Policing

AuthorKelly A. Hine,Jason L. Payne,Alex R. Piquero
Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterArticles
When Suspects Resist
Arrest: Prevalence,
Correlates, and
Implications for
Front-Line Policing
Kelly A. Hine
, Jason L. Payne
, and
Alex R. Piquero
Police use of force is one of the most critical issues in policing with research consistently
finding that the best predictor of force is suspect resistance. Yet, resistance itself is rel-
atively rarely researched. This study drew from the Drug Use Monitoring in Australian
(DUMA) program – Australia’s longest running cross-sectional survey of offenders. Data
was analyzed using multivariate and multi-level logistic regression to identify factors that
predict suspect resistance in terms of whether the suspect was charged with resisting
arrest or not. Results showed that while suspect resistance was relatively rare, it was
more common under specific situations. Factors relating to offender demographics, crime,
temporal/situational, and policing district all contributed to whethe r suspects were
charged with resisting arrest. Moreover, the results showed that the policing region
was the strongest predictor of whether a detainee was charged with suspect resistance.
These findings highlight the complex and multifaceted nature of police-citizen encounters.
police, law enforcement, resist
ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, United States
Department of Sociology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, United States
School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Kelly A. Hine, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods,Australian National University, Room 2.24,
Beryl Rawson Building, Ellery Crescent, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.
Email: kelly.hine@anu.edu.au
Police Quarterly
2021, Vol. 24(2) 135–158
!The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611120957767
Understanding police officer decision-making, especially within the context of
interactions with citizens and including the potential use of force, has long been
of interest to social scientists (see Piliavin & Briar, 1964; D. A. Smith, 1984).
Police-citizen interactions can often be dangerous and unpredictable events;
especially when officers encounter noncomplying citizens. In these dynamic
and rapidly unfolding events, officers are expected to make difficult decisions
about the use of force. Too much force may be deemed excessive or unnecessary,
while not enough force may put officers and the community at risk of harm
(Hine et al., 2018a). Global events in the last decade have highlighted the pub-
lic’s demand to understand police-citizen interactions. For example, the fatal
police shootings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner in the US
generated the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Hands-Up, Don’t Shoot’ social move-
ments and protests (Stayner, 2016, July 17), and the recent murder of George
Floyd on May 25, 2020 has generated renewed calls for serious police reform.
The police shooting of a Black man in England resulted in riots in 66 locations
(Bridges, 2012). In Australia, four fatal police shootings during a one-month
period resulted in a formal review (Queensland Police Service, 2016a) and,
during the same period, another formal review was conducted into potential
misuses of force within one policing district (Queensland Police Service, 2016b).
Accordingly, the use of force by police is one of the most critical issues in
policing today with major law enforcement groups holding international
forums to address the problem and investigate alternative options to avoid or
reduce violent behavior (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2001;
Police Executive Research Forum, 2016), all of which are designed, in part, to
help regain and/or build trust and cooperation between the police and the com-
munity (President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2015).
Research consistently finds that the best predictor of police use of force is
suspect resistance (Alpert & Dunham, 1997; Bayley & Garofalo, 1989; Bolger,
2015; Dunham & Alpert, 2015; Engel et al., 2000; McCluskey et al., 2005;
Terrill, 2005; Worden et al., 1996), yet, suspect resistance itself is relatively
rarely researched (see Jetelina et al., 2017). Suspect resistance is typically studied
as a predictor of police behavior (Mastrofski et al., 1995, 2002; Worden &
Shepard, 1996) and police use of force (Alpert et al., 2004; Bazley et al., 2007;
Garner et al., 1995; Hine et al., 2018a, 2018b; MacDonald et al., 2003; Morabito
et al., 2012; Terrill, 2003, 2005; Terrill & Mastrofski, 2002; Wolf et al., 2009) or
officer injuries (Covington et al., 2014; Hine et al., 2018b; MacDonald et al.,
2009; Paoline et al., 2012; M. R. Smith et al., 2007; Taylor & Woods, 2010).
These findings suggest that officer behavior is influenced by suspect resistance.
Due to the role that suspect resistance plays in these violent confrontations, it is
important that we better understand the factors influencing, and predictors of,
suspect resistance in order to help inform guidelines and policies surrounding
the use of force.
136 Police Quarterly 24(2)

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