Study Focuses on Officer-Citizen Interactions

Jeffrey Rojek, Ph.D., associate director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior and associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice. Photo: Laura Trejo/UTEP Communications

Jeffrey Rojek, Ph.D., associate director of UTEP’s Center for Law and Human Behavior and associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, is leading a two-year study on officer-citizen interactions and de-escalation of force. The research, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of South Carolina and partnerships with Polis Solutions and the Tucson and Fayetteville Police Departments, will involve the administration of various levels of Polis Solutions’ “Tact, Tactics, and Trust” (T3) training.

T3 is designed to train police officers to meet the challenges of creating positive tactical and social outcomes during community interactions. T3 is based on an interdisciplinary body of social scientific research on the dynamics of face-to-face interactions in low-trust, high-risk situations of the kind exemplified by police encounters with people in historically marginalized communities, people with mental illness, and people in various states of emotional crisis.

“There has been a consistent call recently for the need to increase the training of police officers, which points to the logical need to implement evidence-based training programs for the various areas where it is needed. Unfortunately, there is no history of rigorous evaluation of police training efforts, whether it is training on officer safety, investigations, social interaction, or any number of critical issues. This is, in part, a product of the complexity of law enforcement in the United States, where service to the public is divided across nearly 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies that largely operate independently with limited funding. There is not a centralized  research and development coordination process with large funding pools to address critical needs and develop policy as you find for the entities that exist under the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security. Rather, there is a much smaller level of funding that flows from the Department of Justice that is spread thinly in an attempt to develop the research needs for all criminal justice agencies, which creates only limited opportunities for funding evidence-based initiatives. Moreover, the individual law enforcement agencies operate on thin budgets that do not provide the luxury of being able to fund expansive research and development efforts, and subsequent evaluations.”

The $799,000 project is a joint study by the Center for Law and Human Behavior and the University of South Carolina funded by the National Institute of Justice.