Training and Safety: Potentially Lethal Blue-on-Blue Encounters

Police Practice and Research

An International Journal

Authors: Dawn A. O’Neill, William R. Spence, William J. Lewinski & Emily J. Novak

Potentially lethal blue-on-blue (i.e. officer-on-officer) encounters result in the use-of-force against an unidentified officer, such as an off-duty or undercover officer (OD/UC), and have not been empirically investigated. A vignette involving an ambiguous situation involving a plainclothes individual with a gun and 6-item survey were used to determine (a) how officers would respond to ensure the safety of those on scene and (b) how well responses from participants with blue-on-blue training or lived experience adhered to recommendations from the New York Task Force on Police-on-Police Shootings. A secondary aim was to investigate near misses (i.e. almost using force against a fellow officer in the field). In the vignette, a uniformed officer arrives at a scene where one plainclothes individual is holding another plainclothes individual at gunpoint. Thematic analysis revealed variables perceived to maximize safety. Less than half of the sample received blue-on-blue training, and exposure to training was not significantly related to previous recommendations. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

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