RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A recent study published in the Journal of Public Health concluded that police officers with a military history are more likely to be involved in discharging weapons on the job. This conclusion perpetuates a homogeneity among veterans that does not exist and prompted two researchers from RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, to publish a response to this study.
The response, also published in the Journal of Public Health, counters that the study oversimplifies the relationship between veterans and violence. The authors of the response point out that even the original study notes that in the majority of the cases considered officers were likely justified in using deadly force.
“The study only examines law enforcement job description and military status without identifying the myriad other variables that could put individuals at higher risk of shootings.” said Jessica Kelley Morgan, PhD, co-author of the response and a research psychologist at RTI who studies the intersection between behavioral health issues and military life.
“While public scrutiny around officer-involved shootings needs to continue, as researchers, we need to ensure that our studies are measuring known confounding variables before drawing any conclusions. We also need to be prudent when framing our findings. I can imagine a study that presented these same results with the title ‘Military Training Pays Off’ because veterans were more likely to respond appropriately in high-risk situations,” she says.
The response ends with a request to the scientific community to consider the ramifications of studies that make sweeping conclusions without considering multiple variables that could affect those results. This is necessary for all research, but more so when the results could result in adverse outcomes for groups like veterans and their families who already face a host of challenges.