Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor

Brian Lawton

Committee Members

Gohar Petrossian

Hung En-Sung

Stephen Bishopp

Keywords

police veterans, police combat deployments, military law enforcement

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to determine if police officers with military experience are less likely to receive civilian complaints for use of force and unprofessional behavior than police officers without military experience. The research consisted of eight research questions that the dissertation attempted to answer. From these eight research questions, three hypotheses were established. To facilitate the research a mixed-methods approach was utilized to compare whether police officers with military experience accrued more or less civilian complaints than police officers without military experience. The initial portion of the dissertation utilized quantitative data collected from three police departments in the state of Florida to compare the number of civilian complaints filed against police officers between the years 2014-2016.

The qualitative portion of the research consisted of data which was gathered from twenty in-person interviews and telephonic interviews. The initial interviews consisted of a cohort of ten police supervisors having personal military experience, including combat deployment experience. A second cohort of ten police supervisors was also interviewed. These supervisors did not have military experience or combat deployment experience however, they had experience with recruiting, training, or supervising police officers with military experience. The qualitative information provided supervisor’s perceptions of police officers with military experience compared to police officers who did not have military experience with regard to overall performance in their role as police officers. The qualitative data served to provide additional insight beyond the quantitative data of civilian complaints regarding the excessive use of force and complaints concerning unprofessional behavior filed against police officers with and without military experience. Lastly, a second qualitative portion utilized a survey using the service of Survey Monkey to query police officers who are military veterans. The Survey Monkey responses determined if their military service and combat experience influenced their law enforcement capabilities and civilian interactions.

The quantitative research concluded that police officers with military experience are less likely to have civilian complaints filed against them for unprofessional behavior than police officers who do not have military experience. The qualitative data provided a positive perception of police officers with military experience regarding their ability to serve as police officers and interact with the community. Lastly, the qualitative data as provided by police officers who have military experience via Survey Monkey concluded that military experience was beneficial to their service as police officers.

There are significant policy implications which may be garnered from this dissertation. Many agencies, including the federal government, allocate money for recruiting military veterans. Numerous police departments waive certain requirements and give preference points to military veterans. Based on the findings in this research, it is recommended that police agencies continue to seek military veterans to hire as police officers and in difficult recruiting areas offer incentives to those with military experience to become police officers.

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