Violent police-suspect encounters: the impact of environmental stressors on the use of lethal force

Aldert Vrij, Jo Barton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The legitimate use of force is a characteristic of police services worldwide. However, unlike many other countries, police officers within the United Kingdom remain predominantly unarmed. At present, approximately 5 per cent of the British police force are trained and authorized to carry firearms (so-called Authorized Firearms Officers [AFO]). In numbers, in 1998 a total of 6,411 officers in England and Wales out of a total of 126,814 police officers were licensed to carry firearms (Barton, 2000). These AE’Oswere involved in 11,005 operations in 1998, although only in seven of those operations were shots fired by police officers. Statistics from 1994 to 1997 revealed that the number of operations in which shots were fired varied from four (in 1997) to six (in 1994), whereas in those four years AFOs were involved in approximately 40,000 operations. In other words, although AFOs are frequently involved in operations, they rarely use their weapons. Although the frequency of shooting incidents in which AFOs are involved is rare, we should not underestimate its consequences. The use of excessive force may lead to the officer facing criminal charges, while the absence of a timely and accurate perception of, and response to, an armed confrontation may lead to psychological problems, physical injuries, or death of a member of the public, a colleague or themselves (Barton, 2000).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplying psychology to forensic practice
EditorsAdrian Needs, Graham J. Towl
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherBritish Psychological Society
ISBN (Print)9781405105415
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Publication series

NameForensic practice series
PublisherBPS Blackwell


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