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Policing, Race and Ethnicity

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What is meant by a contextual approach to examining policing, race and ethnicity?

Is there racial or ethnic discrimination in arrests? What is the evidence on this question?

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Excellent questions!


1. What is meant by a contextual approach to examining policing, race and ethnicity?

The contextual approach looks at policing within the context of being influenced by race and ethnicity. Are policing practices impacted differentially by race and ethnicity? In other word, it examines policing in terms of how it is influenced by race and ethnicity. Research suggests that policing shows a significant difference in policing behavior across different races and ethnicities

For example, Weitzer and Tuch (2004) examine perceptions of police misconduct in the United States and the contextual factors that influence these perceptions. Specifically, using data from a large, nationally representative survey of whites, African Americans, and Hispanics, they examined how citizens' views of four types of police misconduct?verbal abuse, excessive force, unwarranted stops, and corruption?are shaped by race and other factors, including personal and vicarious experiences with police officers, exposure to mass media coverage of police behavior, and neighborhood conditions. They found that race remains a key factor in structuring attitudes toward police misconduct even after controlling for these other variables. Race is a strong predictor in large part because blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to report having negative interactions with police, to be exposed to media reports of police misconduct, and to live in high-crime neighborhoods where policing may be contentious?each of which increases perceptions of police misconduct. The findings are consistent with the group-position model of race relations (http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/sp.2004.51.3.305).

Example: Abstract

Criminology & Public Policy, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2007
U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-05


For years, criminologists have directed research efforts at questions at the intersection of race and law enforcement. This has not always been welcomed by practitioners, to put it mildly; rather, many police officers view research focused on race and policing as nothing short of an attempt to paint the policing profession and police officers as racist.

This commentary argues that, to the contrary, research into race and policing can still impart to everyone in our society, including police officers and their law enforcement institutions, much that they do not know about how race plays a role in both routine and non-routine police activity. ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses a contextual approach to examining policing, race and ethnicity. It also debates whether or not there is racial or ethnic discrimination in arrests supported by evidence. Supplemented with an informative article on race, ethnicity and the criminal justice system.