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Policing a Multicultural Society

NCJ Number
Journal of Police & Society: An Interdisciplinary Israeli Journal of Law Enforcement & Criminology Issue: No. 7 – Special Issue: Policing a Multicultural Society Dated: April 2003
Pinhas Yehezkeally, Orit Shalev
Date Published
April 2003
247 pages

Presented in this issue of Police and Society are papers prepared for a conference on "policing a multicultural society" hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and the Israel National Police, Community & Civil Guard Department in March 2001.


At the turn of the 21st century, multicultural communities are a growing phenomenon globally and in many cities throughout the United States. The world has witnessed increasing transnational migration of large groups of people due to a variety of factors worldwide. This movement has resulted in changes in the ethnic and cultural makeup of communities that are the destinations and sources of the migration. These changes present multifaceted challenges for criminal justice practitioners and policymakers in the affected communities. Some are deeply rooted in cultural traditions, such as allowing only female-to-female or male-to-male contact, or permitting men to carry ceremonial daggers. Depending on the groups experiences in their country of origin, cooperation with police may not be forthcoming, therefore earning their trust becomes paramount. Recruitment and retention of an ethnically diverse police force is a necessity for building trust, but cultural and personal experiences may make this a challenge. Others are more common across emigrating groups. For example, not everyone speaks the same language. Therefore, poor language skills can result in even the most basic communication between the police and the individual/group becoming a challenge. And, a lack of cultural sensitivity, real or perceived, may lead to unintended consequences and violence. Failure to adequately address the challenges of policing in a multicultural society can, at best, result in misunderstandings between groups and alienation. At worst, it becomes the catalyst of civil unrest and violence.