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Rethinking Minority Attitudes toward the Police -- Final Technical Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2004
51 pages
This study examined the role of a number of micro- and macro-level variables to probe why race affects attitudes toward the police.
Previous research has established race as one of the most consistent predictors of attitudes toward police. Despite the abundant research on this topic, most studies have focused on documenting these race differences without adequately explaining why they exist. As such, the current study examined the role of personal experience, knowledge of others’ experiences, mass media reporting on police, neighborhood crime conditions, and standard demographic variables in shaping attitudes toward the police. Data were drawn from a national survey conducted between October and December 2002 with 1,792 residents (White, African-American, and Hispanic) of United States metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 population. The survey contained both fixed-choice and open-ended questions; results of quantitative analyses are presented in this report, while the qualitative analyses are presented in other writings. Results of multivariate analyses indicate that African-Americans and Hispanics are significantly more dissatisfied with the police than their White counterparts. Neighborhood crime conditions, direct experiences with police, and mass media representations of police were all found to impact residents’ attitudes toward police. The findings thus indicate that Hispanics and African-Americans hold more critical views of police based on their disproportionate adverse experiences with police, exposure to negative media depictions of police, and residence in high-crime neighborhoods where policing practices may be contentious. The survey findings also indicate areas of policing practice that, if improved, may bolster police relations with minority communities; these include the recommendation that police officers be required to apologize for a stop and search that yields nothing. Offering more information about why citizens have been stopped may also improve relations. Future studies should continue to focus on why police are perceived differently by different groups of people. References, tables

Date Published: June 1, 2004