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    The Use of Force Event
    On August 13, 2007, the Vancouver police had an encounter with Paul Boyd that ultimately ended in Boyd’s death at the hands of an officer. Put yourself in the shoes of a police psychologist who has been brought in to consult on this case. You have been provided with all of the background information about the case (available on Blackboard), including a brief list of potentially relevant psychological phenomena that may provide you with a starting point for this assignment. You now must prepare your report, which is to focus on three basic issues:
    1. What factors might an officer (on scene during the encounter with Paul Boyd) have considered in their overall risk assessment of the situation (think about the use of force model that was discussed in the module)? In your view, what influence might this assessment have had on the decisions made by the officers, including Constable Chipperfield?
    2. Consider some of the decisions made by officers in this encounter, the actions that were exhibited by officers, and some of the things the officers reported after the encounter. As a police psychologist with knowledge of use of force dynamics, human psychology and physiology, cognition and memory, how would you explain some of the officers’ decisions, actions, and follow-up reports (including the fact that recall discrepancies between officers seemed to exist)? Remember to use the last document in the list of material to assist with this portion of the assignment.




Subject Psychology Pages 11 Style APA


Psychology of Policing – Use of Force

The purpose of this report is to discuss the circumstances under which police may restrain from the use of force as they perform their duties within the lens of psychology of policing. The report is based on a case in which Paul Boyd, previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder and taking medications, was shot nine times by Constable Lee Chipperfield. What raises eyebrows in this case is that Chipperfield aimed the last killing shot on Boyd’s head even after another officer had snatched the bike chain away from Boyd. Boyd had been wielding the bike chain against the police officer. The bullet to the head hit him as a he was crawling on the ground towards the police. It is obvious that he was no more proving to be of significant threat to the public or the police at that time, but Chipperfield fired the shot to Boyd’s head anyway (Theodore, 2012). This report is informed by the Use of Force Model. As such, the report is structured in a way that draws concepts and guidelines from the Use of Force Model. The key components of the Model helps form the structure of this report. The major sections of this report then include risk assessment, explanation of decisions, actions, and reports, and finally, a determination on whether the shooting was justified (Russell, 2017).  A conclusive statement summarizes the findings of this report. Boyd had previously been diagnosed of bipolar disorder and his behavior on the fateful day is explained by the fact that he had forgotten to take his medications; therefore, he did not deserve to be shot death.

Psychological Evaluation of the Use of Force Event

Risk Assessment

            Police may be influenced by certain psychological factors and other considerations on whether to use force (excessive or reasonable force) or not to use force at all depending on how they assess the situation at hand. A police officer needs to identify important factors and perform an accurate and swift assessment of the situation. The use of Force Model may help guide police officers to immediately assess a given situation and make a decision on whether a subject, situation or arrestee seem to pose any threat to property at the scene, people, the police, and to themselves (Russell, 2017). Assessment of a given situation is followed by planning on the appropriate course of action to be taken and acting appropriately. Assessment takes into consideration whether the person posing a threat is cooperative, passive resistant, active resistant, assaultive, or is likely to cause serious body harm or death. Police may elect to control a situation using soft tactics, communicating and engaging subjects, officer presence, using physical control strategies, hard control strategies, intermediate weapons, or lethal force depending on the nature of the situation (Russell, 2017).  An officer on the scene during an encounter with Paul Boyd might have considered to following factors in his/her overall risk assessment:

            Potential for Physical Confrontation

            The police use of force may be influenced by the conflict perspective as informed by the conflict theory. In Canada, police tend to use excessive force against persons from the minority groups since members of minority groups are threatened as attempting to challenge or change the status quo; hence, likely to engage in confrontations with the police (Carmichael & Kent, 2015). The perception that police officers may engage in altercation or confrontation with an offender, arrestee, or subject may increase the likelihood for the use of force by the police (Russell, 2017). Chipperfield might have perceived that he physical confrontation with Boyd was likely, that is why he elected to the use of lethal force.

            Subject Use of Force

            The fact that Boyd was wielding a bike chain against the police might have made a police officer to predict that the subject was likely to use force. This could have likely influenced the use of force by the police to control the situation. However, the police should have considered on whether the client has been violent to the public or to the traffic before the police arrived to the scene. Besides, the police should have inquired on whether Boyd had harmed anyone or caused any injuries or damage before police arrival or not (Theodore, 2012)? Since the subject has not harmed anyone before the arrival of the police, the police could have then calculated or estimated the potential impact of subject use of force in an accurate manner so as to determine appropriate response or course of action (Russell, 2017). Besides, the amount and type of force used by the arrestee should also be taken into consideration by the arresting officer (Trahan & Russell, 2017). In Canada, the presence of a weapon in possession of the subject may increase the likelihood for the use of force by the police (Boivin & Lagace, 2015). Chipperfield’s focus on the weapon at Boyd’s hand might have triggered him to fire several shots on him.

            Subject Compliance

            The ideal objective of police response is to achieve quick control of a given situation. This depends on whether the subject will comply with police orders or directions or not (Russell, 2017). Subjects may not be compliant, or may be complaint but disrespectful, and having bad attitude (Nix, Pickett, & Mitchell, 2019). The Use of Force Model predicts that subjects may be cooperative, passive resistant, active resistant, assaultive, or may cause serious body harm or death to others or themselves (Russell, 2017). In the provided case study, the officer should have considered whether Boyd was responsive to police instructions or orders or not. He should have been asked to drop the bike chain, kneel down and remain calm before resorting to the use of lethal force. The police could have used crafty or clever tactics to obtain Boyd’s compliance to requests, instructions, or demands (Russell, 2017). Chipperfield might have figured out Boyd’s noncompliance to orders or instructions that he fired on him.

            Subject Use of Alcohol or Possibility of being intoxicated with other Drugs

            A subject or arrestee might be impaired by alcohol or drugs. Other determinants may include domestic disputes (Trahan & Russell, 2017). The officer in the scene should have considered whether Boyd was intoxicated with alcohol, drugs or other factors. These factors might have influence on the subject’s behavior and hence must be put into consideration (Russell, 2017). These considerations might have reduced Chipperfield’s urgency to the use of force.

            Subject Mental Health Status

            The arresting officer needs to have considered whether Boyd was having any mental health or psychological issues before deciding on a plan and the course of action. Strategies such as talking or questioning subjects and evaluating the appropriateness of their action might have given Chipperfield a clue concerning the mental health status of the client (Russell, 2017). However, this never happened since it was later revealed that Boyd had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In fact, he had forgotten to take his bipolar drugs on the day of the incident (Theodore, 2012).

            Suspect and the Police Officer are both of Male Gender

            The gender of the suspect and that of the police officer is a strong predictor for the use of force by the police or the subject. The risk of confrontation is most likely if the arresting officer on the ground is male and the subject is male as well (Russell, 2017). According to Trahan and Russell (2017) racial disparities in in the use of force by the police in the United States is significant among male subjects not in custody. In Canada, it has been established that the greater the representation of females in policing the lower the cases of the use of force or confrontations between the police and the subjects or arrestees (Carmichael & Kent, 2015). Porter and Prenzler (2017) also agree that the placement of women in policing can help reduce police-citizen conflict incidences.

            Suspect Known to be Assaultive, Resistive, or to Carry Weapons

            Subject’s or arrestee’s behavior in the scene may increase the likelihood of police to use force. A police officer needs to determine whether the subject is assaultive, resistive or is known to carry weapons (Trahan & Russell, 2017).  In Canada, in 1,174 self-reported uses of force among the personnel, it was found that the use of force by the police was higher than, equal to, or lower than the level of subject resistance (Boivin & Lagace, 2015).

            Types of Offense

            Is the offense violent? A police officer should assess the type of crime or offense that the offender has committed or is about to commit to judge on the course of action. A violent offense may increase the likelihood of police use of force. For example, the average rate of use of force per 100 arrests in violent offenses is 19.6% (Garner et al., 2018). Boyd had not committed any offense, but Chipperfield may have judged that he was about to harm police officers, including himself.

Explaining Decisions, Actions, and Reports

            Decisions and justification for police use of force is conceptually ambiguous. Besides, there is lack of consistency on police actions or decisions to use force in different circumstances (Klahm, Frank, & Liederbach, 2014).  Likewise, Chipperfield’s decision to use lethal force against Boyd who was merely armed with a bike chain was uncalled for since the argument that he was posing a major threat to the police is unfounded (Theodore, 2012). Police officers have a responsibility to protect the public. Besides, they have a responsibility for their actions depending on circumstances. Police should avoid unnecessary use of force (Obasogie & Newman, 2017). There need for reorientation of police actions towards de-escalation or resort to use of least force to contain situations (Obasogie & Newman, 2017).

            Chipperfield might have mistaken Boyd’s behavior of crawling towards him as a possibility of having other weapons such as a knife or a gun since he had fired eight shots on him but he was still stubborn and seemingly intimidating (Obasogie & Newman, 2017; Theodore, 2012). In fact, Chipperfield raised concerns that he had mistaken his crawling action despite having shot him eight times or possibly having put on body armor. Chipperfield defense claimed that he had inattentional blindness during the encounter with Boyd (Theodore, 2012).  The psychological phenomenon of inattentional blindness posits that individuals tend to fail to notice unexpected events or objects when they are focusing their attention on something else (Simons & Schlosser, 2017). However, Chipper could have not failed to notice his fellow officer picking the bike chain since he was focusing on the same (Simons & Schlosser, 2017; Theodore, 2012).

Chipperfield’s action of firing a final ninth’s killing shot to Boyd’s head may be explained using other psychological phenomena; particularly perceptual distortions and mistaken object effect. Chipperfield might have mistaken the bike chain to the possibility that Boyd was even armed with a more lethal weapon. Besides, perceptual distortion phenomena might have made Chipperfield to have abnormal interpretation or incorrect understanding of the situation at hand (Russell, 2017).

            The desire to control the situation within a short time possible might have influenced Chipperfield’s decision to use lethal force against Boyd. The police force works as a business of controlling people. As such, the police’s primary tool of trade is the use of coercive force to resolve various social problems. Coercive force includes an assortment of nonviolent behaviors, verbal commands, and threats to effectively respond to a situation. Other coercive force acts include use of physical violence such as punches, kicks, and use of weapons (Klahm et al., 2014).  Considering the facts of the situation, it was appropriate for Chipperfield to use non-violent coercive strategies rather than use of lethal force as informed by the Use of Force Model (Russell, 2017; Theodore, 2012).

            Police training and conceptualization that violence is a means of accomplishing social order may influence police decision to use force against subjects. Even in progressive societies police officers are the most conspicuous and proficient specialists in the day-to-day use of coercion, which is deemed necessary to preserve domestic order (Carmichael & Kent, 2015). Victimization fear and interpersonal strain may influence an officer’s use of unnecessary force. Other reasonable cause of use of force decisions includes officers’ emotions (annoyance, anger, and fear), suspicion, and perceived danger (Nix, Pickett, & Mitchell, 2019).  However, unjustified or excessive use of force by the police may weaken police-citizen relations and negatively hinder overall social cohesion. Tensions between ordinary citizens and the police may erupt over the use or excessive or lethal force by the police (Carmichael & Kent, 2015).

            Chipperfield was faulty in his use of force to control Boyd. In a use of force scenario, majority of police officers tend to use intuitive style of decision making rather than the required analytical style of decision-making (Hine et al., 2018). The bike chain was not comparable in speed and lethality to the bullet fired from a gun. Therefore, other strategies of controlling Boyd such as Tasers or tactical hand combat skills should have been used to disarm him of the bike chain (Hine et al., 2018; Theodore, 2012). As much as the police are aware and eager to protect their own safety as well, there is no justification for using excessive force or lethal force to an incidence in which actual confrontation with subject might not result into serious harm or threaten an officer’s life. This case highlights the need for the police officers to enhance their physiological and psychological control, especially under stressful use of force situations so as to only use necessary or reasonable force (Andersen & Gustafberg, 2016).  This recommendation is important since police officers often encounter witnesses, victims, and suspects in their most vulnerable moments, including during domestic disputes, mental health crises, and following sexual and/or violent victimizations. Hence, they ought to learn on how to respond appropriately and identify situations that require use of reasonable force (Smykla et al., 2016).

Determination of Whether the Shooting was justified

            Chipperfield’s decision and action of shooting Boyd was not justified at all. The killing was a result of decision impairment or perhaps misjudgment of the whole scenario (Hine et al., 2018).  Chipperfield claimed inattentional blindness for firing nine shots to Boyd, including the last fetal shot to the head, but this holds little ground in this case. Facts on the ground reveal that the bike chain had even been snatched from Boyd by another officer; hence, he was not a threat. However, this did not stop him from firing to Boyd’s head (Theodore, 2012). Taking away of the bike chain by his colleague was a major event relevant to the task at hand that could have not resulted into inattentional blindness. Chipperfield was not focusing his attention to other things apart from Boyd in that scenario (Simons & Schlosser, 2017). This may rule out the psychological explanation of the scenario that Chipperfield might have been focused on the bike chain as a weapon and the perception that he might have been armed since he never produced any other weapon during the length of the whole incident (Russell, 2017; Theodore, 2012).  Besides, the argument that tunnel vision might have restricted Chipperfield’s view of the whole situation is also ruled-out by the fact that he was not the only police officer at the scene and he must have noticed his colleague’s action of taking the bike chain away from the crawling Boyd. At this point in time, Boyd had been disarmed. There is no rational explanation as to why Chipper aimed the last ninth shot in Boyd’s head with intent of killing him (Russell, 2017; Theodore, 2012). Boyd’s behavior may have been caused by his mental health issues (bipolar disorder) since on that day, he had failed to take his medications for managing the same (Theodore, 2012).


            There was not rational or reasonable justification for the use of force in Boyd’s case.  Police officers are required to asses, plan, and decide on an action plan as informed by the Use of Force Model based on the nature of the situation at hand. A police officer at the scene might have been influence by various factors to make different decisions, take different actions and judge the extent or degree of action. These factors include the potential for physical confrontation, subject’s use of force, subject compliance, own gender as opposed to that of the subject, subject’s alcohol or drug intoxication, and subject’s mental health status. Other important considerations include influence of social problems and types of offense.  In addition, a police officer must have considered whether the suspect is known to be assaultive, resistive or to carry weapons (or not). Boyd never deserved to die. Inattentional blindness cannot explain Chipperfield’s action to shoot and kill Boyd. The facts in the case indicate that at the time, he was shot in the head, Boyd was crawling on the ground from the injuries he had sustained from the previous eight shots and that he was no more holding the bike chain since it had already been taken away from him.







Andersen, J.p., & Gustafberg, H. (2016). A training method to improve police use of force decision making: A randomized controlled trial. Sage Open, 6(2), https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2158244016638708

Boivin, R., & Lagace, M. (2015). Police use-of-force situations in Canada: Analyzing the force or resistance ratio using a trichotomous dependent variable. Police Quarterly, 19(2), 180-198. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1098611115613953

Carmichael, J.T., & Kent, S.L. (2015). The use of lethal force by Canadian police officers: Assessing the influence of female police officers and minority threat explanations on police shootings across large cities. Criminology, Anthropology, & Sociology Faculty




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