This investigation examined the effects of ethnicity on conditioning attitudes toward the police in six ethnic communities in Central Queens, New York.
Representative samples of 200 residents from six different ethnic groups were surveyed (African-American, Italians, Indians, Colombians, Ecuadoreans, and Dominicans). Respondents were asked about voluntary and involuntary contacts with the police, perceptions of police effectiveness and misconduct, and crime reporting. Contrary to expectations, no significant differences were found among the six ethnic groups in police-initiated contacts. On the other hand, large differences were noted between ethnic communities in voluntary contacts with the police. The ethnic communities that were the longest-established and the best-integrated into the local political structure (African-Americans and Italians) were far more likely to use the police in instrumental ways than communities that were less well-established. Respondents held contradictory attitudes toward police behavior. Most believed that police officers were effective in addressing local crime concerns, but most also believed that police officers engaged in misconduct. Individuals who had been stopped by the police within the past year were more likely to believe that police engaged in misconduct and were less willing to report crimes than other respondents, However, group membership played a much larger role in how people felt about the police. The most powerful determinant of opinions about the police and willingness to report crime was membership in particular ethnic communities. Whether respondents were native citizens was also important in conditioning attitudes toward the police. 95 references, 4 tables, and 2 figures
Date Published: August 1, 2000