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Race, Ethnicity, and Police–Community Relations  

Jennifer H. Peck and Richard L. Elligson

The relationship between race, ethnicity, and police–community relations can be traced through the historical development of the United States. Through the eras of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, and, most recently, the Black Lives Matter movement, police–community relations with racial and ethnic minorities are a complex and complicated area of inquiry. Although research has shown that Blacks hold the most negative perceptions of police, followed by Hispanics and then Whites, understanding race relations between minority citizens and law enforcement is tied to numerous issues. The individual and combined effects of disadvantaged neighborhood characteristics, personal and vicarious experiences with police, and media exposure to high-profile incidents of police–citizen encounters are only a few of the factors that relate to differences in police–community relations across racial/ethnic groups. To mitigate the negative effect of media exposure of high-profile incidents related to police perceptions and behaviors, organizational justice is one component of law enforcement that may offer some perspective. Additional issues that are correlated with police–community relations for Blacks and Hispanics are greater levels of mistrust between minorities and the police, over- and underenforcement in minority communities, and negative perceptions of police legitimacy and procedural justice held by minorities. Problems surrounding police culture, cynicism, and misconduct (e.g., use of force) are further areas that connect to police–community relations and are more salient for minority residents than for their White counterparts. Practices such as the use of evidence-based policing, invested partnerships between social services and law enforcement, the fair and effective use of authority and force by police, and understanding the specific needs of minority communities may provide promising areas for the enhancement of police–community relations with minorities.

Article

Race and Police Misconduct Cases  

Andrea M. Headley and Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill

Racial disparities abound in policing, and police misconduct is no exception. Literature on race and police misconduct can be categorized into three sub-themes: race and (a) civilian complaints about police misconduct, (b) public perceptions about police misconduct, and (c) officer perceptions of police misconduct. Racial disparities are apparent in the resolution of civilian complaints, and in perceptions of the ubiquity and severity of police misconduct. People of color may not always view accountability systems as legitimate or feel comfortable using formal complaint processes as a means of resolve. Officers of color report being disadvantaged by internal compliant processes, observing more misconduct than do their White peers, and feeling less comfortable with informal codes of silence. All officers generally rate misconduct involving use of force against civilians of color as more serious when compared to similar incidents involving white individuals. Officers of color, in particular, are more likely to admit beliefs that police treat people differently based on race and income. As with police outcomes more generally, race-based disparities in measures of misconduct likely persist due to a combination of complex and interconnected individual-, institutional-, and societal-level factors. Further research is needed. Lack of comprehensive reporting mechanisms nationwide poses challenges for scholars studying misconduct. There needs to be a greater diversity of methods used to study misconduct, including qualitative methods, and more evaluative studies of the variety of policies proposed as solutions to misconduct. The contexts of misconduct research must also be expanded beyond the United States and the Global North/West to offer international and comparative insights.

Article

Police Response to Juvenile Gangs and Gang Violence  

Victor Mora

Street gangs are prevalent throughout the United States. Recently, law enforcement agencies estimated there are approximately 30,000 gangs and 850,000 gang members across the United States. Gang members commit assaults, street-level drug trafficking, robberies, and threats and intimidation. However, they most commonly commit low-level property crime and marijuana use. Rival gang members or law-abiding citizens are often the targets of these crimes. Other than crime, the influence of gangs can disrupt the socializing power of schools, families, and communities. These institutions help socialize young people to learn and follow the appropriate rules of a law-abiding society. The presence of gangs and gang-related activity induces fear in the local community and great concern among citizens, impacting the quality of life of neighborhoods and cities. To confront these concerns, law enforcement is often considered the first line of defense. Despite the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and gangs, police officers have special knowledge and access to gang members and at-risk youth, which puts law enforcement in a unique position to reduce juvenile gang violence through prevention, intervention, and suppression efforts. There are several ways in which law enforcement responds to gang violence. In its efforts to prevent gang violence, law enforcement plays a crucial role in regulating gang activity and in preventing those at risk of joining gangs. Primary prevention is broad in scope as the programs and strategies focus on the entire community. Primary prevention programs, such as the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, target a wide population and attempt to teach youths the skills to resist peer pressure to join a gang. Secondary prevention programs narrow their focus by identifying and reaching out to youths at risk for joining gangs. Secondary prevention programs, such as Los Angeles’s GRYD Secondary Prevention Program, offer psychological and substance abuse counseling, tutoring, and employment training, among other services. Law enforcement can also reduce gang violence through intervention by implementing strategies that provide alternatives to gang membership and strategies that prevent gang activity. Gang alternative programs, such as the Gang Employment Program (GEP), aim to get individuals to leave their gangs, but also provide opportunities to prevent the individual from rejoining the gang. Gang activity prevention strategies, such as the Dallas Anti-Gang Initiative’s enforcement of curfew and truancy laws, focus on specific activities, places, or behaviors associated with gang activity. These strategies typically include special laws, mediation, and situational crime prevention strategies. As a last resort, law enforcement responds to gang violence through suppression strategies. Suppression strategies are deterrence-based strategies. Although the effectiveness of these aforementioned programs varies, law enforcement is better utilized in a prevention capacity rather than an enforcement one. Moreover, law enforcement should not tackle gang violence alone, but in partnership with other community organizations and stakeholders such as Boston’s Operation Ceasefire or Chicago’s Project Safe Neighborhoods. These partnerships with community organizations and visible commitment to combating gang violence through prevention and suppression efforts can build trust and increase police legitimacy in at-risk communities.

Article

Proactive Policing and Terrorism  

Badi Hasisi, Simon Perry, and Michael Wolfowicz

Over the last few decades, one of the most pressing issues for governments, societies, and the law enforcement agencies that serve and protect them has been the threat of terrorism. Given that these changes represent a relatively new area for police, it is important to understand how terrorism is best policed and what approaches, strategies, and tactics are most effective. While the evidence base is still in its developmental stages, the evidence that does exist suggests that proactive policing strategies already employed against other forms of crime are the most useful and effective for policing terrorism. Policing efforts that focus on high concentrations of crimes at places (“hotspots”), or among the high-risk offenders, and employ problem-solving perspectives and use community-based strategies show consistent evidence of effectiveness and improving relations between the police and the public. Based on this evidence, policing agencies that undertake proven, proactive strategies toward policing terrorism are better able to incorporate their new role and focus within their broader law enforcement functions. By doing so, policing agencies can expand their role and function in a way that draws on their experience and strengths, rather than “reinventing the wheel” and overstretching resources. Additionally, policing agencies from different countries can draw on their own experience and local knowledge in dealing with other forms of crime, as well as the experience of other agencies and countries, in order to develop a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to policing terrorism.

Article

The Criminalization of Immigration  

Jennifer M. Chacón

The regulation of immigration in the United States is a civil law matter, and the deportation and exclusion of immigrants from the United States are matters adjudicated in civil, administrative courts operated by the federal government. But migration in the United States is increasingly managed not through the civil law system, but through the criminal legal system, and not just at the federal level, but at all levels of government. The most obvious example of the management of migration through the criminal law in the United States occurs through the federal prosecution of immigration crimes. In the 2010s, federal prosecutions of immigration crimes reached all-time record highs, as immigration offenses became the most commonly prosecuted federal criminal offenses. But it is not just the federal government, using federal criminal prosecutions, that has moved criminal law and criminal law enforcement agents to the center of immigration enforcement in the United States. The federal government relies on state and local police to serve as front-line agents in the identification of noncitizens potentially subject to removal. Everyone arrested by state and local law enforcement for any reason has their fingerprints run through federal law databases, and this has become the leading screening mechanism through which the federal government identifies individuals to target for removal. Federal law also relies on state law convictions as one of the primary means through which federal immigration enforcement officials determine which noncitizens to remove. This means that state legislatures and state and local governments have the power to shape both their criminal laws and their discretionary enforcement choices to either enhance or mitigate the scope of federal immigration enforcement in their jurisdictions. The problems of racial inequity in the U.S. criminal legal system are both exacerbated by and fuel the centrality of immigration enforcement to the nation’s law enforcement agenda. Racial profiling is broadly tolerated by law in the context of immigration enforcement, making it easy for officials at the state and federal level to justify the targeting of the Latinx population for heightened surveillance on the theory (often incorrect) that they are unlawfully present. At the same time, the overpolicing of Black communities ensures that Black immigrants as well as Latinx immigrants are disproportionately identified as priorities for removal. Immigration enforcement is frequently written out of the story of racial inequality in U.S. policing, but the criminalization of migration is a central architectural feature of this inequitable system.

Article

Examining the School-to-Prison Pipeline Metaphor  

Kayla Crawley and Paul Hirschfield

The school-to-prison pipeline (STPP) is a commonly used metaphor that was developed to describe the many ways in which schools have become a conduit to the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The STPP metaphor encompasses various disciplinary policies and practices that label students as troublemakers, exclude students from school, and increase their likelihood of involvement in delinquency, juvenile justice, and subsequent incarceration. Many external forces promote these policies and practices, including high-stakes testing, harsh justice system practices and penal policies, and federal laws that promote the referral of certain school offenses to law enforcement. Empirical research confirms some of the pathways posited by STPP. For example, research has shown that out-of-school suspensions predict school dropout, justice system involvement and adult incarceration. However, research on some of the posited links, such as the impact of school-based arrests and referrals to court on school dropout, is lacking. Despite gaps in the empirical literature and some theoretical shortcomings, the term has gained widespread acceptance in both academic and political circles. A conference held at Northeastern University in 2003 yielded the first published use of the phrase. Soon, it attained widespread prominence, as various media outlets as well as civil rights and education organizations (e.g., ACLU, the Advancement Project (they also use “schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track”), the National Education Association (NEA), and the American Federation of Teachers) referenced the term in their initiatives. More recently, the Obama administration used the phrase in their federal school disciplinary reform efforts. Despite its widespread use, the utility of STPP as a social scientific concept and model is open for debate. Whereas some social scientists and activists have employed STPP to highlight how even non-criminal justice institutions can contribute to over-incarceration, other scholars are critical of the concept. Some scholars feel that the pipeline metaphor is too narrow and posits an overly purposeful or mechanistic link between schools and prisons; in fact, there is a much more complicated relationship that includes multiple stakeholders that fail our nation’s youth. Rather than viewing school policies and practices in isolation, critical scholars have argued that school processes of criminalization and exclusion are inextricably linked to poverty, unemployment, and the weaknesses of the child welfare and mental health systems. In short, the metaphor does not properly capture the web of institutional forces and missed opportunities that can push youth toward harmful choices and circumstances, often resulting in incarceration. Many reforms across the nation seek to dismantle STPP, including non-exclusionary discipline alternatives such as restorative justice and limiting the role of school police officers. Rigorous research on their effectiveness is needed.