Police attitudes toward the use of inappropriate force in China

AuthorLening Zhang,Shelley Liu
Date01 December 2021
DOI10.1177/14613557211021864
Publication Date01 December 2021
SubjectArticles
Article
Police attitudes toward the use
of inappropriate force in China
Shelley Liu
(Department of Social Sciences,) The City University of New York Bronx Community College, USA
Lening Zhang
(Department of Criminal Justice,) Saint Francis University, USA
Abstract
The purpose of this study is to explore police attitudes toward the use of inappropriate force in China. Using original data
from a survey of over 900 police officers in China, this study investigated patterns of officers’ attitudes toward the use of
force and correlates of officer attitudes supportive of the use of inappropriate force. This study shows that a significant
number of officers hold attitudes supportive of the use of inappropriate force. Regression analysis demonstrates complex
relationship between police role-orientation and officers’ attitudes toward the use of inappropriate force. This study also
found that police training on the use of force was not as effective as expected in shaping officers’ attitudes toward the use
of force. The implication for police training is discussed in relation to findings of this study.
Keywords
Policing, police use of force, China, police attitudes, inappropriate force, excessive use of force
Submitted 19 May 2020, Revise received 11 Mar 2021, accepted 05 May 2021
Introduction
Zhou Xiuyun, the mother of a migrant worker, died in
police custody in Taiyuan, China on 13 December 2014.
The tragedy began as a mundane dispute between Zhou’s
son and security guards at a construction site where both
her husband and son worked. The security guards alleg-
edly stopped her son and several other migrant workers
fromenteringthesitefornotwearingahelmet.Thetwo
sides got into a heated argument, leading the security
guards to call the police and Zhou’s son to call her and
her husband for help. When police officer Wang Lijun and
three other officers attempted to take the involved work-
ers, including Zhou’s husband and son, to the police sta-
tion, Zhou tried to stop them by holding onto Officer
Wang’s leg. Officer Wang warned Zhou to stay back, but
she refused. After a few minutes’ standoff, Officer Wang
pinned Zhou to the ground and kneed her in the chest.
Footage on social media shows that while awaiting
backup, Officer Wang stepped on Zhou’s hair as she lay
motionless on the ground. A few hours after being taken to
the police station, Zhou was announced dead in hospital.
The autopsy showed that Zhou’s neck was broken and she
had died from respiratory failure (China police on trial for
woman’s beating death, 2015; Police stand trial over
migrant worker’s killing,2015).
The Zhou case is just one example of many recent inci-
dents leading to a firestorm of controversy in China. High-
profile incidents involving the use of deadly force by police
in China have triggered public outrage and sparked fierce
debate on the limits of police power. While some have
criticized police officers for their bru tality and abuse of
power, others have defended the officers and blamed the
Corresponding author:
Shelley Liu PhD, Department of Social Sciences, The City University of
New York Bronx Community College, 2155 University Ave, Bronx,
NY 10453, USA.
Email: minlp@hotmail.com
International Journalof
Police Science & Management
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/14613557211021864
journals.sagepub.com/home/psm
2021, Vol. 23(4) 358–371

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