Helms School of Government
Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (PhD)
unarmed policing, preventable deaths, use of force, policing in the United States, deadly force, lethal force
Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences
Egan, Thomas A., "A Qualitative Study of the Lived Experiences of Unarmed Police Officers" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4532.
The purpose of this study was to describe the lived experiences of unarmed law enforcement officers managing workplace violence while performing their duties in New York City at various agencies. The three research questions asked, how do unarmed police officers describe their experiences performing their job duties without a lethal weapon? How do unarmed police officers describe their expectations regarding their likelihood of experiencing workplace violence? How do unarmed police officers describe how they navigate workplace violence? The theory guiding this qualitative descriptive study was prospect theory, a concept that was originally used to study how the bias of money managers influences the way they invest funds for clients. Prospect theory is appropriate for research involving police officers as they are often accused of biases, both implicit and explicit. Virtual snowball sampling was used to recruit 12 officers who perform their duties within the five boroughs of New York City. Allegations of bias against specific constituents are frequent, most often against African Americans, the mentally ill, and anyone who is the subject of a police action. The data were collected during semi-structured interviews with volunteer-participants who work as unarmed law enforcement officers. Interviews were conducted via Zoom teleconferencing software and ran between 45–90 minutes in length from which a narrative for each was created. The interviews were transcribed via temi.com. All coding and thematic analysis used to examine the data were completed manually. Ten main themes were identified regarding how workplace violence is managed by unarmed officers: (a) potentially injurious items encountered, (b) negative experiences, (c) positive experiences, (d) potential for violence, (e) view of work conditions, (f) support, (g) training, (h) use of force, (i) capacity to manage violence, and (j) response to work conditions.