In the line of duty: Kill or be killed?

Danielle SuttonLead researcher: Danielle Sutton

Project description: There is reciprocity inherent in most violent encounters; the act of aggression and the reaction of retaliation. Based on this Hobbesian observation, equal academic attention should be paid to examining the prevalence, characteristics, and correlates of homicide cases involving police, either as perpetrators or as victims. This is not the case.

Existing research focuses disproportionately on analyzing occurrences of police use of deadly force while neglecting a full examination of officers killed in the line of duty. Moreover, the validity and reliability of existing research is questionable due to the predominance of U.S.-based empirical findings drawn from voluntary, government-generated databases of police homicide perpetration or victimization, but rarely both.

Lead by Danielle Sutton, the objective of this study is to begin to address this gap and broaden the discussion of police violence by comparing homicide case characteristics in which police were either perpetrators or victims of homicide in Ontario between 1985 and 2013. The identification of shared characteristics, regardless of perpetrator or victim status, as well as risk factors unique to each can be used to subsequently inform and revise provincial policies, training procedures, and operational practices. Only with a complete understanding of both phenomena can we begin to appreciate the dynamics at play during deadly encounters with an eye towards reducing future fatalities in Canada and abroad.