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Command Presence: Video Observations of Police-Civilian Encounters and the Practice of Coercive Force by Law Enforcement.


This qualitative study of Police-Civilian Encounters (PCE) takes a grounded approach towards observing PCE videos. The research begins with an overview of coercive force and known outcomes related to the practice. A subsequent review of policing data and police literature establishes the framework for the selection of PCE videos used in this study. Following an inductive line of reasoning the research examines PCE on a basic level through observation of PCE video. An organized undertaking that starts at a tertiary level and drills down to milliseconds within PCE to allow for transcription of conduct and dialogue that come to pass where police use coercive force to compel an arrest. As a result of this analysis, distinctive patterns emerge from the PCE video data that underscore anti-black policing: First, police delay a peaceful conclusion to the civilian’s interaction with law enforcement. Second, police use the conversational space to generate interactional conflict with civilians. Third, police escalate coercive force practices to make compelled arrests of civilians. Fourth, police construct a law enforcement narrative to recast coercive force in terms of civilian resistance. The implications associated with magnified observation of PCE may help to advance parallel studies concerned with sequential social activity and authority-based relationships. Research in this area may lead to more sophisticated ways of measuring coercive force practices demonstrated by police during encounters with civilians; especially where PCE are intimately connected with social control of disenfranchised populations.

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