Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Sutham Cobkit

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Willard

Third Advisor

Dr. Gang Lee


Often there are reports of people being the victims of excessive force from law enforcement officers. Despite the occurrence of documented cases of excessive force, there is a possibility that accusations of excessive force are exaggerated. Personality and situational theories have been applied to the study of people’s perceptions of excessive force. The purpose of this study is to replicate a study conducted by Perkins and Bourgeois (2006). This study will attempt to determine how situational factors and differing personalities can cause differences in society’s perception of excessive force, similar to Perkins and Bourgeois (2006). This study has two purposes: to provide literature demonstrating the possible effects perception has on deadly force and to replicate a study conducted by Perkins’ and Bourgeois’. Two hypotheses were proposed: (1) perception of excessive force increases when the amount of law enforcement officers and fired shots increase and (2) personality traits would be related to individual perception of excessive force. After surveying a sample of 205 participants, this study did not find strong support for the proposed hypotheses. However, there were slight relationships between constructive patriotism and the 1-officer/2-shots scenario. Excessive force, while not a recent phenomenon, has become a recent study; causing limited research and empirical information. Currently, the amount of literature and lack of empirical evidence are limitations to determining how excessive force is perceived. However, this study has the possibilities ofbeginning extensive and future research to provide additional evidence on the controversial topic of deadly force. Validated evidence and support of current theories and literature will offer insight to society’s perceived use of excessive force. This may, in turn, help law enforcement develop decision-making paradigms to determine whether or not excessive force is warranted in a given situation.