Policing, Use of Force, and the Impact of Police Psychology


Presenters: Gerald Sweet, PhD; Steven Trask; Kenneth Ferguson; Sean Riley; & Stacey Macaudda

On August 14, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in the midst of a struggle for the officer’s weapon. Officer Wilson is Caucasian and Michael Brown was African-American. The incident was covered by media around the world. The results of local, state and federal investigations determined that Officer Wilson acted within departmental use of force policy and did not violate any federal laws. The shooting led to the development of Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. It was followed by high profile, and in some cases controversial, police shootings in numerous states. It was also followed by murders of on-duty police officers in cities around the country. It led to increased scrutiny of American policing that has continued to the present. Emphasis has been placed on police legitimacy, community policing programs, de-escalation strategies and training, and reviews of use of force policies. Graham v. Connor (1989), the landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court regarding standards of police use of force has also been subject to renewed scrutiny and review.

Police psychologists have played an increasing role in the effort to address issues related to police use of force and police-community relationships. These psychological specialists have worked with law enforcement leaders in the areas of pre-employment psychological evaluations, fitness for duty evaluations, law enforcement/mental health collaboration, and community policing programs. In this program, an experienced police psychologist will be joined by four law enforcement officers in a discussion of these polarizing issues. Participants will be encouraged to join with the presenters in a discussion about the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Specific learning objectives:

1. Describe the issues that continue to cause conflict between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
2. Explain the functions that police psychologists fulfill in trying to promote police effectiveness and collaborative relationships between officers and members of the community.
3. Identify the diversity issues that are taken into consideration in pre-employment psychological evaluations and community policing programs.

Program Code: PP03
Credits: 3
Fees: $60 for CE credits; $30 for no CE credits


  • When

  • Friday, May 17, 2019
    9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    Eastern Time

  • Where

  • William James College
    1 Wells Avenue
    Newton, Massachusetts 02459

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