Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Criminal Justice

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 79 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Robert Worden

Committee Members

James Acker, Justin Pickett, David Klinger


Deadly Force, Decision-Making, Human Error, Police, Use-of-Force, Police shootings, Firearms accidents, Errors, Police training

Subject Categories

Criminology | Public Policy


Police use of deadly force has become one of the most contentious and controversial aspects of the U.S. criminal justice system. Yet, the vast majority of police shootings never rise to the level of public consciousness (Zimring, 2017). Instead, the public discourse and controversy tends to center on a handful of cases that appear excessive and/or are difficult to understand (Pickering & Klinger, 2016). As a result, these cases have a disproportionate impact on the public’s perception of police legitimacy and competence, particularly when it comes to their use of deadly force (Gua, 2014). The outcomes of many of these controversial cases meet the definition of and could be classified as human error (Reason, 1990). Where we find error in the professional environment, we find the opportunity to improve practice and future outcomes (Woods et al., 2010). Indeed, research on human error has been used as vehicle for reform and improved practice in a number of other high-risk occupations including aviation, medicine, the military, and transportation. This dissertation examines human error within the context of the police decision to discharge a firearm in the line of duty. The goal of the dissertation is to provide and test a theoretical framework designed to facilitate more meaningful research, understanding, prediction, and perhaps even the reduction of some of the most controversial police shootings.