The Role of the Police in Evacuations: Responding to the Social Impact of a Disaster

Luke Bonkiewicz, R. Barry Ruback

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Disaster evacuations are stressful events in which citizens and law enforcement frequently interact with each other. Most emergency response plans are based on military strategies that operate independent of the general public, but we argue that the police must be cognizant of several social psychological factors that affect citizens' behavior during evacuations, including risk perception, social networks, and access to resources. Drawing from social psychological, criminal justice, and disaster research, we propose a model that (a) describes how citizens' priorities and behaviors change as a disaster evolves and (b) identifies policing strategies that accommodate these changing behaviors and facilitate a successful evacuation. Our model, embedded in how people behave and what police are taught, can increase citizen compliance with law enforcement during disaster evacuations, remove more citizens from harm, save lives, and improve the relationship between communities and the police.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-156
Number of pages20
JournalPolice Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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