Book review: Unarmed and Dangerous: Patterns of Threats by Citizens During Deadly Force Encounters with Police

AuthorRichard Smith
Published date01 March 2020
Date01 March 2020
Subject MatterBook review
Book review
Book review
Shane J and Swenson Z (2019) Unarmed and Dangerous: Patterns of Threats by Citizens During
Deadly Force Encounters with Police. New York: Routledge
Reviewed by: Richard Smith , Metropolitan Police Service, London, UK
DOI: 10.1177/0032258X19855119
Much scholarlydiscourse in the United Statesthat considers police use offorce is drawn to
contemplate theprevailing socio-demographicfactors that may have played a part in such
encounters.Where the use of force leads to a fatality,the subsequent narrative is frequently
concerned with race and civil rights issues. When the citizen was found to be unarmed at
the time of the police intervention that led to their death, scrutiny is particularly pointed.
The conclusions thatare made often side with the deceased and challenge the legality and
legitimacy of police action. Securing accurate data, which provides a comprehensive
understanding of the totality of the circumstances, is problematic. Incomplete open-
source data offers the only credible data set to assist in determining the scale of these
issues and subsequent identification of policy and legislative improvements.
Unarmed and Dangerous: Patterns of Threats by Citizens During Deadly Force
Encounters with Police by Dr Jon Shane and Zoe¨ Swenson provides a critical evaluation
of police use of deadly force, through original research, in instances where the offender
was unarmed. Specifically, the text considers the threats posed by the offender at the
time of the incident and seeks to build a greater contextual understanding of the pre-
vailing circumstances. The research attempts to move away from a binary narrative
which asserts an ‘armed’ offender as being a valid threat to police/public safety whilst
an ‘unarmed’ offender is seen as posing an insignificant threat, which should not have
concluded in deadly force. Part of the ‘Routledge Focus’ series, this book is a short-form
publication which provides a clear and focussed discussion of what is a significant,
contemporary area of police policy that is on the criminal justice reform agenda across
the United States. Dr Jon Shane is a retired senior police officer and Associate Professor
in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John
Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Shane has published widely in the fields of
police policy and practice, particularly as they relate to performance management and
use of force. Zoe¨ Swenson is an investigator with the New York City Department of
Investigation. Her research interests include situational crime prevention, police policy
and use of force.
Following the introduction (chapter 1), the book comprises four further chapters.
Chapter 2 considers existing literature in some detail, focusing particularly on the risk
The Police Journal:
Theory, Practice and Principles
2020, Vol. 93(1) 82–84
ªThe Author(s) 2019
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