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Beyond a Split-Second: An Exploratory Study of Police Use of Force and Use of Force Training in Canada

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
The authority to use force, including lethal force is a defining feature of the police profession. A police officer’s decision to use force carries potentially significant consequences for all involved and is arguably the most heavily scrutinized aspect of modern police work, despite its rare use. Situations involving the use of force are often characterized by a rapidly evolving scenario, complex environment, considerable uncertainty, and a potentially high degree of fear. These factors make it extremely challenging for officers to decide when and how to act. The high stakes nature of police use of force events and the level of scrutiny that the use of force attracts places a premium on the quality of training that officers are given, both in terms of content and application. Yet, in spite of the importance ascribed to training, the research in this area is limited, particularly from a Canadian perspective. What is known about use of force training comes largely from research and experience in the U.S.A., a significantly different policing environment than Canada. Using a qualitative research framework, this thesis seeks to fill the gap in Canadian use of force research and shed light on recruit and in-service training that is given to police officers. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with ten Canadian police academy and department-based use of force instructors, this study explores the factors involved in police use of force situations and how use of force training prepares officers for use of force events in Canada. The findings indicate that while current police training is evolving to better prepare officers for the realities of police use of force encounters, it is nonetheless limited by a number of factors. These factors are identified and discussed noting the implications for police services, policing scholars, and police oversight bodies.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Griffiths, Curt Taylor
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etd8495_JMurphy.pdf 2.95 MB

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