my master’s thesis measures differences in black/white levels of trust in the police for black and white residents living in the same zip code in cities around the country. previous research questions the racial basis for individual differences in perceptions of police, believing that neighborhood context is more predictive. neighborhood influences through social networks, differential policing tactics and economic realities that support illegal means of making money. my research finds, however, that even when neighborhood is taken into account, race is still significant. an article in the sunday times discusses these issues [although while i wish it would have done a better job of attempting to separate race and neighborhood in racially segregated inner-city spaces, it is very difficult to do]:
Yet many residents of Whitman Park say their reluctance to help investigators is based on more than just fear of gang retaliation. It is also a consequence of their deep distrust of the local police and prosecutors and politicians. Like residents of many other struggling, predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods across the country, people here complain that racial profiling, police corruption and the excesses of the war on drugs have made them suspicious of virtually any arm of government.
in any case, distrust of the police is a major issue not just for crime control, but also for all arms of authority supported by the government. what happens when you have large segments of the population who question the legitimacy of legal authority? what does that say about the democratic ideals of our society?