Panic Attack: a Micro-Situational Perspective of the Violent Actions of Police
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The use of force by police has been explored through a range of social science perspectives. However, the majority of those perspectives have failed to account for the impact that situational factors have on the use of coercion by police. While situational perspectives have been utilized, they have primarily focused on solitary features of the situation; thus, ignoring a situation’s various component parts. The general absence of consideration given to situational force is exhibited within the sociological literature more generally. This absence contributes to a diminished appreciation for the circumstances that transpire within the context of the situation. This thesis explores the role that the situation plays in the generation of police use of coercion. In addition, this thesis observes whether contemporary theoretical developments can elaborate the explanatory value of the situation in studying the use of violence by police. Specifically, this thesis utilizes Collins’ (2004) micro-situational theory of violence and his concept of forward panic. To examine the utility of Collins’ theory, eight theoretical propositions are used. This research examines the extent to which the propositions were empirically observable and whether they had a value added impact. The propositions examined were: 1) cross-purpose, 2) tension/fear, 3) the prolonged building of tension/fear, 4) docile lingering, 5) suspect in a position of weakness, 6) suspect outnumbered, 7) overkill and piling on of violence, and 8) rhythm. To observe the propositions a multiple case study analysis was conducted using Internet videos and newspaper articles. It was found that in all nine cases each of the propositions as described by Collins (2004) were present. The findings suggest general support for using Collins’ theory to explain police violence. In addition, his theory was found to have value added capability, as each of the situational components of the theory combined to impact on police violence.