Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 137–149 | Cite as

Exploring Minority Youths’ Police Encounters: A Qualitative Interpretive Meta-synthesis

  • Anne Nordberg
  • Marcus R. Crawford
  • Regina T. Praetorius
  • Schnavia Smith Hatcher


Recent deaths by police of unarmed minority youth have raised important questions about the nature and outcomes of involuntary minority youth-police encounters. Youth are the most surveilled group of Americans and minority youth frequently live in neighborhoods disproportionately targeted for proactive policing (i.e., using broad police discretion to “target” those most likely to be engaged in criminal activity before criminal acts become apparent). Understanding the experiences of minority youth who encounter police officers is of critical concern for social workers in many practice and research areas. Social workers must examine how a minority person’s perceptions are formed through repeated, frequent, involuntary encounters with the police. The purpose of this qualitative interpretive meta-synthesis was to capture these experiences through the voices of minority youth in recounting their contacts with the police. Four themes were identified: dangerous, controlling, prejudiced, and ineffective. Further reduction of these themes resulted in an overarching theme that captures the essences of these youth’s experiences: dehumanization. These results enhance understanding of minority youth experience with police officers and, thus, inform social work advocacy efforts around this issue in both practice and research arenas.


Minority youth-police encounters Phenomenology Qualitative interpretive meta-synthesis (QIMS) Dehumanization 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkThe University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Center for African American Studies, School of Social Work, Department of Criminology & Criminal JusticeThe University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA

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