Perceptions of Police Across Race and Generation Status

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Perceptions of Police Across Race and Generation Status Powered By Docstoc
					Race and Perceptions of
       Police
              Presented at
          UROP Symposium
     University of California, Irvine

                   by

     Mei-Ling N. Malone

             May 13, 2006
How do people perceive the social functions of the police?
How does race impact that perception?
               Previous Research


• Police brutality generates far more negative
  impressions of the police for blacks than for
  whites and Latinos. (Weitzer and Tuch 1997)

• Blacks are significantly more likely than whites to
  perceive the police unfavorably. (Weitzer and
  Tuch 1999)
                     Methods

   Quantitative & Qualitative Instruments:

1) Social Attitudes Surveys

  –   Administered to 200 UCI students, two large
      general education lecture courses (n=143)
                     Methods




2) Focus-Groups

  – Five one-hour interviews with multiracial groupings of
    six UCI students each (n=30)
                           Methods
Focus-group questions :

1.   Where are you from and where are your parents from?

2.   How do you feel about the police?

3.   How have family or other influences impacted your perception of
     the police?

4.   What are some interactions you have had with the police?

5.   How do you feel your racial group in general is treated by the
     police in comparison to the treatment given to other racial groups?
                  Limitations


• Non-random convenience sampling reduces
  external validity of study and circumscribes
  generalization of conclusions
Results
Major finding…

 Stark differences along
 black/non-black divide: black
 participant perceptions of
 police differed greatly from
 those of white, Asian, and
 Latino participants.
                      Results

• Critique of police given by white, Asian, and
  Latino participants differed significantly from that
  given by black participants.
     What do you think about the police?
        Some common responses:


• “I’m neutral, I haven’t really thought about
  the police.”

• “We need them in society.”

• “I definitely respect the police, they are human
  like the rest of us.”
     What do you think about the police?
       Some uncommon responses:


• “I have no respect for the
  police.”
• “Most people feel safe
  around the police… I
  never felt that way.”
• “They are agents of
  oppression.”
• “I don’t trust them… I
  never will.”
                        Divergent Critiques
        Whites, Asians, Latinos                        Blacks

•   “police are not nice…”             •   “police are not needed, they just
                                           provoke more violence…”
•   “police are not efficient…”
                                       •   “we live in a police state…our
•   “they ruin parties…”                   country is run by the police…”

•   “too many cops in crimeless        •   “blacks are targets for violence…”
    areas, e.g. Newport and Irvine…”
                                       •   “police serve to uphold the status
•   “need more cops in dangerous           quo…actively maintaining blacks’
    places…”                               position at the bottom…”

•   “out to fill ticket quotas…”
                 Question # 5

• How do you feel your racial group is treated by
  the police in comparison to other groups?
          White Responses



• “I haven’t really seen any negative aspects of the police with brown
  people, I think people try to exaggerate things on the news and
  twist things and stuff to make things look worse.”
• “I’m white and they treat us better than minorities but I have heard
  stories where people are treated like minorities equally.”
• “I’m white and I think they probably treat us the best but…I guess…
  I mean there is the connotation that we get the best treatment.”
• “I’m from white upper class and so I’m probably treated the best out
  of all racial groups…but I should be treated the best but I don’t feel
  like I am…but stereotypically rich white people supposedly get
  better treatment, especially adults.”
                 Asian Responses

• “I grew up with a lot of Asians and I guess they are just
  neutral towards us…I think they treat everybody equally.”

• “I think there are a few individuals that are ignorant about
  different cultures and races. And those few individuals
  ruin it for the whole department.”
                 Latino Responses

• “Well a lot of the gangsters are Mexican so the police
  don’t treat them as nicely because of all of their criminal
  activity.”

• “For me it depends on the area and I live in an area
  where the police are very nice.”
    Black Responses


•“There is definitely an us versus them…when people talk about -- to protect
and to serve -- that is a reference to protect white people and serve white
people, and protect whites from blacks.”
•“I have been walking down the street with my father and he has gotten pulled
over because he fits a description. My brother has been harassed by the
police because he fits a profile. I feel like to be black is to fit a profile
•.“Blacks are seen as targets for violence, just the physical appearance
alone…blacks are targets for any kind of abuse or victimization…that’s the
police first response when they see a black person.”

•“Its like slavery times…you walk past a police officer, look down, don’t make
eye contact and keep moving.”
                Conclusions


• Black students hold qualitatively different
  appraisals of the police than their white,
  Asian, and Latino counterparts.
                 Implications

• A general complacency with the current
  structure of policing

• Majority of participants appear unlikely to be
  receptive to or supportive of claims against the
  police

• Broader efforts for police reform are thereby
  dampened
                Future Research


• How do perceptions of police correlate with
  empirical measures of police treatment?

• Do blacks and non-blacks exhibit significant
  differences in perceptions of other political and
  legal institutions? If so, which ones and why?
             Acknowledgements
•   Dr. John Dombrink
•   Dr. Valerie Jenness
•   Mr. Johnny Nhan
•   Dr. Sohail Daulatzai
•   Dr. Jared Sexton
•   Katsuya Mitsuhashi
•   Ana Ramirez
•   UROP                   Thank you!!!
     For further information


            Mei-Ling Malone
Department of Criminology, Law & Society
     Social Ecology Honors Program
      University of California, Irvine
      MeiLing.Malone@gmail.com