Advertisement

Perceptions of Police Conduct When Race and Gender Are Considered

  • Emily PicaEmail author
  • Lauren E. Thompson
  • Joanna Pozzulo
  • Chelsea L. Sheahan
Article

Abstract

With the recent media attention on police discretion and police discrimination, the current studies aimed to address whether people believe the race and gender of a person under suspicion influences police conduct. In study 1, participants (N = 137) read an incident summary where two individuals, who were described as being Black or White and male or female, were asked to leave a local coffee establishment; the police were called, and the individuals were arrested. Participants were more likely to believe the call to police and the arrest were justified when the individuals were White as opposed to Black. Study 2 was an extension of study 1 whereby the race of the individual calling the police also was varied between Black and White. Participants (N = 316) in study 2 also were more likely to believe the call to police and the arrest were justified when the individuals were White as opposed to Black. Additionally, participants were more likely to believe the call to the police was justified when the individual was male compared to female. Across both studies, participants also were asked to rate how much they believed race and gender influenced the call to the police and arrest; participants believed that both race and gender were influential in these decisions. The current studies provide new information regarding the public’s perception of police prejudice and suggest that people may be apt to consider the negative relationships between the police and minorities when considering a specific case. Further, the results suggest that the public does not support or agree with racially driven arrests and actually counteract any prejudice by making anti-stereotypical judgements.

Keywords

Gender Race Use of force Police relations Police legitimacy 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

References

  1. Austin, I., & Bilefsky, D. (2019). Canadian Inquire calls killings of Indigenous women genocide. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/world/canada/canada-indigenous-genocide.html. Accessed 11 June 2019
  2. Black Lives Matter. (2019). About. https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/. Accessed 5 June 2019
  3. Brandl SG, Frank J (1994) Global and specific attitudes toward the police: disentangling the relationship. Justice Q 11(1):119–134.  https://doi.org/10.1080/07418829400092161 Google Scholar
  4. Chiricos T, Welch K, Gertz M (2004) Racial typification of crime and support for punitive measures. Criminology 42(2):359–390.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00523.x Google Scholar
  5. Clark M, Davidson D, Hanrahan V, Taylor NE (2017) Public trust in policing: a global search for the genetic code to inform policy and practice in Canada. J Commun Safety Well-Being 2(3):101–111Google Scholar
  6. CNN. (2019). Trayvon Martin shooting fast facts. https://www.cnn.com/2013/06/05/us/trayvon-martin-shooting-fast-facts/index.html. Accessed 11 June 2019
  7. Criminal Justice Information Services Division. (2016). Arrests by race and ethnicity, 2016. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/topic-pages/tables/table-21. Accessed 5 June 2019
  8. Culhane SE, Boman JH, Schweitzer K (2016) Public perceptions of the justifiability of police shootings: the role of body cameras in a pre- and post-Ferguson experiment. Police Q 19(3):251–274.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1098611116651403 Google Scholar
  9. Dean K, Wayne JH, Mack D, Thomas K (2000) An examination of happiness, racism, and demographics on judgments of guilt. J Appl Soc Psychol 30(4):816–832.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2000.tb02825.x Google Scholar
  10. Devine DJ, Caughlin DE (2014) Do they matter? A meta-analytic investigation of individual characteristics and guilt judgments. Psychol Public Policy Law 20(2):109–134.  https://doi.org/10.1037/law0000006 Google Scholar
  11. Ewanation L, Maeder E (2018) The influence of witness intoxication, witness race, and defendant race on mock juror decision making. Can J Criminol Crim Justice 60(4):505–536.  https://doi.org/10.3138/cjccj.2017-0047.r2 Google Scholar
  12. Forsterlee L, Fox GB, Forsterlee R, Ho R (2004) The effects of a victim impact statement and gender on juror information processing in a criminal trial: does the punishment fit the crime? Aust Psychol 39(1):57–67.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00050060410001660353 Google Scholar
  13. Franklin TW (2018) The state of race and punishment in America: is justice really blind? J Crim Just 59:18–28.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2017.05.011 Google Scholar
  14. Griggs B (2018) A black Yale graduate student took a nap in her dorm’s common room. So a white student called police, CNN Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com
  15. Hendree PK, Nicks SD (2000) Perceptions of violent crimes in relation to sex of perpetrator. Percept Mot Skills 90(2):485–488.  https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.2000.90.2.485 Google Scholar
  16. Huang WSW, & Vaughn MS (1996). Support and confidence: public attitudes toward the police. In T. J. Flanagan & D. R. Longmire (Eds.), Americans view crime and justice: a national public opinion survey (pp. 31-45). doi:  https://doi.org/10.4135/9781483326900.n3
  17. MacLin MK, Herrera V (2006) The criminal stereotype. N Am J Psychol 8(2):197–208Google Scholar
  18. Madriz EI (1997) Images of criminals and victims: a study on women’s fear and social control. Gend Soc 11(3):342–356.  https://doi.org/10.1177/089124397011003005 Google Scholar
  19. Maeder EM, Ewanation L (2018) What makes race salient? Juror decision-making in same-race versus cross-race identification scenarios and the influence of expert testimony. Crim Justice Behav 45(8):1234–1251.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854818776998 Google Scholar
  20. Maeder E, Yamamoto S, Saliba P (2015) The influence of defendant race and victim physical attractiveness on juror-decision making in a sexual assault trial. Psychol Crime Law 21:62–79.  https://doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2014.915325 Google Scholar
  21. Marques J, Yzerbyt V, Leyens J (1988) The “black sheep effect”: extremity of judgments towards ingroup members as a function of group identification. Eur J Soc Psychol 18:1–16Google Scholar
  22. Miller, A., & Russell, A. (2015). Black Lives Matter protesters shut down section of Allen expressway. https://globalnews.ca/news/2134082/hundreds-protest-deaths-of-jermaine-carby-and-andrew-loku-in-toronto/. Accessed 11 August 2019
  23. Mitchell TL, Haw RM, Pfeifer JE, Meissner CA (2005) Racial bias in mock juror decision-making: a meta-analytic review of defendant treatment. Law Hum Behav 29(6):621–637.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-005-8122-9 Google Scholar
  24. Nellis, A. (2016). The color of justice: racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons. The Sentencing Project. https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/ uploads/2016/06/The-Color-of-Justice-Racial-and-EthnicDisparity-in-State-Prisons.pdf. Accessed 5 June 2019
  25. Osborne D, Davies P (2013) Eyewitness identifications are affected by stereotypes about a suspect’s level of perceived stereotypicality. Group Process Intergroup Relations 16:488–504Google Scholar
  26. Pfeifer JE, Ogloff JRP (2003) Mock juror ratings of guilt in Canada: modern racism and ethnic heritage. Soc Behav Personal Int J 31(3):301–312.  https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2003.31.3.301 Google Scholar
  27. Pozzulo JD, Dempsey J, Maeder E, Allen L (2010) The effects of victim gender, defendant gender, and defendant age on juror decision making. Crim Justice Behav 37(1):47–63.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854809344173 Google Scholar
  28. Reisig MD, Parks RB (2000) Experience, quality of life, and neighborhood context: a hierarchical analysis of satisfaction with police. Justice Q 17(3):607–630.  https://doi.org/10.1080/07418820000094681 Google Scholar
  29. Rosenbaum DP, Schuck AM, Costello SK, Hawkins DF, Ring MK (2005) Attitudes toward the police: the effects of direct and vicarious experience. Police Q 8(3):343–365.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1098611104271085 Google Scholar
  30. Russell KK (2002) The racial hoax as crime: the law as affirmation. In: Gabbidon SL, Greene HT, Young VD (eds) African American classics in criminology and criminal justice. Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp 349–376Google Scholar
  31. Russell, A. (2019). Sask., Quebec arrest videos show ‘startling’ examples of excessive police force: Experts. Retrieved on August 13, 2019 from https://globalnews.ca/news/5456773/sask-quebec-arrest-videos-excessive-police-force-experts/. Accessed 13 August 2019
  32. Sampson RJ, Bartusch DJ (1998) Legal cynicism and (subcultural?) tolerance of deviance: the neighborhood context of racial differences. Law Soc Rev 32(4):777–804.  https://doi.org/10.2307/827739 Google Scholar
  33. Sandu N. (2018). “They don’t have a platform here”: exploring police perceptions of the black lives matter movement in Canada (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from http://summit.sfu.ca/collection/130
  34. Schuller RA, Kazoleas V, Kawakami K (2009) The impact of prejudice screening procedures on racial bias in the courtroom. Law Hum Behav 33(4):320–328.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-008-9153-9 Google Scholar
  35. Sigelman L, Tuch SA (1997) Metastereotypes: Blacks’ perceptions of whites’ stereotypes of blacks. Public Opin Q 61(1):87–101.  https://doi.org/10.1086/297788 Google Scholar
  36. Simoiu C, Corbett-Davies S, Goel S (2017) The problem of infra-marginality in outcome tests for discrimination. Ann Appl Stat 11(3):1193–1216.  https://doi.org/10.1214/17-AOAS1058 Google Scholar
  37. Simpson R (2017) The police officer perception project (POPP): an experimental evaluation of factors that impact perceptions of the police. J Exp Criminol 13:393–415Google Scholar
  38. Smith SK, Steadman GW, Minton TD, Townsend M (1999) Criminal victimization and perceptions of community safety in 12 cities, 1998. U.S. Department of Justice, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  39. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. (2012). Table 2.12.2012. https://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t2122012.pdf. Accessed 20 May 2019
  40. Starr SB, Rehavi MM (2013) Mandatory sentencing and racial disparity: assessing the role of prosecutors and the effects of booker. Yale Law J 123(1):1–80Google Scholar
  41. Statistics Canada. (2015). Criminal victimization in Canada, 2014 (no. 85-002-X). Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14241-eng.htm. Accessed 21 March 2019
  42. Statistics Canada. (2016). Ethnic and cultural origins of Canadians: Portrait or a rich heritage. Retrieved from https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016016/98-200-x2016016-eng.cfm. Accessed 21 March 2019
  43. Statistics Canada. (2018). Adult and youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2016/2017 (no. 85-002-X). Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2018001/article/54972-eng.htm. Accessed 21 March 2019
  44. Steen S, Engen RL, Gainey RR (2005) Images of danger and culpability: racial stereotyping, case processing, and criminal sentencing. Criminology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 43(2):435–468.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0011-1348.2005.00013.x Google Scholar
  45. Steffensmeier D, Demuth S (2006) Does gender modify the effects of race—ethnicity on criminal sanctioning? Sentences for male and female White, Black, and Hispanic defendants. J Quant Criminol 22(3):241–261.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-006-9010-2 Google Scholar
  46. Steffensmeier D, Kramer JH (1982) Sex-based differences in the sentencing of adult criminal defendants: an empirical test and theoretical overview. Sociol Soc Res 66(3):289–304Google Scholar
  47. Steffensmeier D, Painter-Davis N, Ulmer J (2017) Intersectionality of race, ethnicity, gender, and age on criminal punishment. Sociol Perspect 60(4):810–833.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0731121416679371 Google Scholar
  48. Stevens M (2018). Starbucks C.E.O. apologizes after arrests of 2 Black men. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com
  49. Tankebe J, Reisig M, Wang X (2016) A multidimensional model of police legitimacy: a cross-cultural assessment. Law Hum Behav 40:11–22Google Scholar
  50. The John Howard Society of Canada. (2017). Race, crime, and justice in Canada. Retrieved from http://johnhoward.ca/blog/race-crime-justice-canada/. Accessed 4 June 2019
  51. Walker S (2001) Police accountability. Wadsworth, BelmontGoogle Scholar
  52. Walker S, Spohn C, DeLone M (2000) The color of justice: race, ethnicity and crime in America, 2nd edn. Wadsworth, BelmontGoogle Scholar
  53. Weitzer R, Tuch S (2005) Determinants of public satisfaction with the police. Police Q 8:279–297Google Scholar
  54. Wortley S, Owusu-Bempah A (2009) Unequal before the law: immigrant and racial minority perceptions of the Canadian criminal justice system. J Int Migr Integr 10(4):447–473.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-009-0108-x Google Scholar
  55. Wortley S, Owusu-Bempah A (2011) The usual suspects: police stop and search practices in Canada. Polic Soc 21(4):395–407.  https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2011.610198 Google Scholar
  56. Wortley S, Hagan J, Macmillan R (1997) Just des(s)erts? The racial polarization of perceptions of criminal injustice. Law Soc Rev 31(4):637–676.  https://doi.org/10.2307/3053983 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological Science and CounselingAustin Peay State UniversityClarksvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations