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Police Don't Like Black People: African-American Young Men's Accumulated Police Experiences

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 6 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2007 Pages: 71-102
Rod K. Brunson
Date Published
February 2007
32 pages
This study investigated the interactions of African-American male adolescents with the police and their perceptions of their experiences.
The combination of frequent involuntary police contact, coupled with what study participants considered poor treatment during police encounters, contributed to an accumulated body of unfavorable experiences that collectively shaped young men’s views of police. Frequent harassment and discourteous treatment were the most common forms of police misconduct young men reported. Study participants directly linked these behaviors to aggressive policing efforts. Descriptions of police brutality were prominent features of both young men’s direct and indirect experiences. The findings corroborate prior research concerning the relationship between negative direct police experiences and unfavorable attitudes toward police. The findings suggest that police organizations should work toward developing complaint review processes that inspire confidence among citizens. These efforts are important in improving the image of police in minority communities. Prior research reveals that the cumulative impact of racial discrimination accounts for the special way that African-Americans have at looking at and evaluating their experiences in public encounters, especially young men’s encounters, with police. This study drew from in-depth interviews with 40 African-American adolescent males in a disadvantaged urban community to investigate their range of experiences with the police. The goal is to gain a detailed understanding of how respondents make sense of family members’, friends’, neighbors’, and their own interactions with the police and how these interactions collectively shape their perceptions. Tables, references and appendix