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Racially Biased Policing: Determinants of Citizen Perceptions

NCJ Number
Social Forces Volume: 83 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2005 Pages: 1009-1030
Date Published
March 2005
22 pages
This study analyzed recent national-survey data on citizens' views of and reported personal experiences with several forms of police racial bias, including treating individuals and neighborhoods differently according to race, police prejudicial attitudes toward certain races, and racial profiling.
Data were derived from the authors' 2002 national survey of 1,792 White, African-American, and Hispanic adult residents of U.S. metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 population. Data for the current study were collected as part of a larger study of police-citizen relations. The sample was representative of adults living in households with telephones in urban and suburban areas that met the population-size criterion. The independent variables were "race" (both racial and ethnic groups); perceived personal and vicarious experiences with discriminatory police behavior; and respondents' exposure to media accounts of police misconduct. Dependent variables were perceived police racial bias against individuals and against neighborhoods. The study found that 75 percent of Blacks and 54 percent of Hispanics believed that police in their city treated Blacks worse than Whites, and the same proportions also believed that Hispanics were treated worse than Whites. The overwhelming majority of Whites believed that police in their city treated Whites and the two minority groups "equally." A majority of Blacks and Hispanics, but just one-third of Whites, believed that police provided "worse" services to Black and Hispanic neighborhoods compared to White neighborhoods. Blacks and Hispanics were much more likely than Whites to believe that police prejudice was a problem. The authors conclude that views of police racial bias are related to racial differences not only in general group-position relationships but also in real or perceived group vulnerability to abusive police practices, which is reinforced by personal experience and exposure to media reports of abuse. 2 tables, 10 notes, and 38 references

Date Published: March 1, 2005