Briefing paper

Frontline police officer assessments of risks and decision making during encounters with offenders

22 Nov 2011

This paper examines the challenges in applying a rational choice model by police officers who have to manage stressful situations that may require the use of force.

These challenges include the sequential assessment of an ideal response from a range of potential responses, while incorporating flexibility and timeliness into the decision-making process. This paper outlines an alternative model by which police officers may undertake risk identification and management processes, being naturalistic decision-making. Although the naturalistic decision-making model has been implemented in other risky occupations (for example, the military) its application to the work of police officers has received little attention.

This briefing paper details why the naturalistic decision-making model is highly applicable to risk identification and responses, and the use of force, by police officers. The paper concludes by outlining a research proposal which incorporates a scenario-based assessment tool.

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