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African-American and White Perceptions of Police Services: Within- and Between-Group Variation

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 32 Issue: 2 Dated: March/April 2004 Pages: 123-135
Date Published
March 2004
13 pages

This study used measures of neighborhood context to examine variations in perceptions of police within and between White and African-American citizens; the utility of the predictors was examined in relation to three outcome measures related to the characteristics of policing services: global perceptions, traditional perceptions, and community-policing perceptions.


Data for this study were obtained from a larger research project that is examining attitudes toward crime, public safety, and the police in a midwestern community. The data file consisted of structured telephone interviews with 2,058 community residents. Dependent variables pertained to perceptions of policing services, and independent variables were related to demographic influences, police contact influences, and the influences of neighborhood context. For each of the outcome measures, ordinary least squares regression models were estimated separately for the African-American and White subsamples. In addition, Z scores were calculated for each of the exogenous predictors in the models. Both African-American and White respondents expressed a high overall satisfaction with police services in a global context. White respondents were more influenced by negative police contacts and neighborhood context influences; whereas, positive satisfaction was associated with a diverse range of predictors for African-American respondents. Older African-American respondents and individuals who reported a positive assessment of their neighborhood were the most likely to report positive views of global police services. For both groups, dissatisfaction with a voluntary police contact was a significant, negative predictor of global satisfactions. Regarding citizen perceptions of traditional police services, African-American perceptions of the police were influenced by the same factors as in the case of global police services; White perceptions were most influenced by neighborhood context predictors. Of the three outcome models, the citizen perceptions of the community-policing-services model best differentiated African-American and White respondents perceptions. African-American respondents were largely influenced by demographic and contact measures; and the perceptions of White respondents were most affected by neighborhood context and contact influences. Older and female African-American respondents had the most favorable perceptions of community policing services. Across all three dependent measures and for both races, dissatisfaction with police contact was crucial in shaping perceptions of police service. For all three models, differences in the significance and magnitude of the independent predictors, especially for the community policing service model, suggest that future research should explore race and other variations. 4 tables, 9 notes, and 59 references

Date Published: March 1, 2004