The role of context in understanding the use of tactical officers: A brief research note

AuthorTori Semple,Laura Huey,Craig Bennell,Bryce Jenkins
Publication Date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
The role of context in understanding the
use of tactical off‌icers: A brief research note
Bryce Jenkins
(Department of Psychology,) Carleton University, Canada
Tori Semple
(Department of Psychology,) Carleton University, Canada
Craig Bennell
(Department of Psychology,) Carleton University, Canada
Laura Huey
(Department of Sociology,) Western University, Canada
A small body of research suggests that the use of police tactical off‌icers has become normalized in that they now
commonly respond to routinecalls ra ther than bein g restricted to hi gh-risk situa tions. However, this research
has tended to rely on crude data (i.e., call type), which fails to account for the context of the calls (e.g., the presence
of potential risk factors that might warrant tactical resources). In this brief research note, we sought to expand upon
previous literature by examining the risk factors associated with tactical calls in a Canadian police service. We found
that various risk factors were present in many of the calls that tactical off‌icers responded to, some of which might be
classif‌ied as routine(suicide threats, well-being checks, domestic disturbances, etc.). The presence of such risk fac-
tors highlights the need to consider context when attempting to understand the use (and consequences) of tactical
off‌icers. More rigorous tracking of these factors by police services will facilitate such research and inform policies
around the use of tact ical resources.
Police, police militarization, police tactical units, Special Weapons and Tactics, risk assessment, contextual factors,
freedom of information, police data
Submitted 29 Mar 2021, Revise received 8 Sep 2020, accepted 14 May 2021
The use of police tactical teams in North America has
increased over time (Alvaro, 2000; Kraska and Cubellis,
1997; Kraska and Kappeler, 1997). For example, between
the 1980s and early 2000s, the use of tactical teams substan-
tially increased in the United States, with the number of
estimated deployments rising from 3,000 to 45,000 nation-
ally (Kraska, 2001). Along with a rise in the use of tactical
teams, there also appears to be an expansion of their
mandate such that tactical teams are no longer reserved
for high-riskcalls such as hostage takings, but instead
are frequently used for tasks like warrant executions and
proactive patrol (Alvaro, 2000; Kraska and Cubellis,
Corresponding author:
Bryce Jenkins, Department of Psychology, Carleton University, 1125
Colonel by Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada.
International Journal of
Police Science & Management
2021, Vol. 23(4) 385391
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/14613557211036721

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