Faculty Working Paper: Chelsea Farrell (Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice)

Discussant: Christopher Parker (Assistant Professor & Pre-Law Advisor, Department of Political Science)

Use of Force during Terry Stops: Examining the Role of Suspect Demeanor and Race

  • Date:  February 18, 2022
  • Time: 3:00 PM EST
  • Location: This event was on Zoom and has concluded.


Suspect demeanor has been shown to impact police-citizen encounters, including traffic stops and arrests, but research has yet to examine the role of suspect demeanor on officer actions during a Terry stop (i.e., stop, question, and frisk). Using 2018-2020 NYPD Stop, Question, and Frisk (SQF) data, this study examines predictors of demeanor, the relationship between suspect demeanor and police use of force during a SQF and whether this relationship varies across suspect race. Results demonstrate that race is significantly associated with officer perceptions of suspect demeanor and demeanor impacts the likelihood of using force. Specifically, suspects perceived to be calm by officers are significantly less likely to experience physical force and suspects perceived to be upset, angry, furtive, or non-compliant/aggressive are significantly more likely to experience physical force during a SQF. Although race was found to significantly predict demeanor, suspect race does not appear to moderate the impact of demeanor on use of force except for a non-compliant/aggressive demeanor which does vary significantly across race and ethnicity. Net of key covariates, including whether the person being stopped is suspected of a violent or weapon-related crime, officers are 73% more likely to use force against non-compliant or aggressive Black suspects when compared to non-compliant or aggressive White suspects (OR = 1.73*). Similarly, the odds of experiencing force during a SQF are 106% (OR = 2.06**) higher for non-compliant or aggressive Hispanic suspects than non-compliant or aggressive White suspects.