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dc.contributor.advisorEpp, Charles R
dc.contributor.authorWoods, Solomon
dc.description.abstractRacial tensions in policing are as salient today as ever. While police departments face different challenges in the 21st century compared to the tumultuous years of the civil rights movement, the minority community still sees the police as the enemy. However, this relationship has taken on a considerably different dynamic as police departments have responded, in their own ways, to civil rights laws and norms. Civil rights activists fought hard for police departments to be more diverse, thinking that diversity would reduce the level of police abuse and conflict with minority communities. Fifty years later, police departments are more diverse (either through their own efforts or by court order), but many scholars argue that this has had little impact on policing. Many studies find that black officers act little or no differently than white officers, perhaps because of the socialization process into the role of a police officer. Most of these studies are based on statistical analyses of data on arrests and uses of force, not on interviews with officers themselves. This project is based on interviews with officers and concludes that the race of the officer does matter, in key ways. This dissertation asks the following questions: 1) How does having black officers on the police force affect interactions with citizens? 2) How does having black officers on the police force affect interactions among officers? Specifically, how does it affect conversations about race among officers? 3) How does having black officers on the police force affect officers' advocacy for changes in departmental policies? To address these questions, interviews were conducted in 2014 among black and white officers in a large metropolitan police department in the Midwestern United States. With regard to the first question, the interviews revealed that black and white officers in my sample are very aware that the black community has a strong level of distrust, and even hatred towards the police, but black and white officers have responded differently to this realization. Black officers I interviewed indicated they have empathy for black citizens' distrust of the police, based in part on their own life experiences, particularly experiences of police stops. As a consequence, in many cases, black officers in my sample reported that they attempt to deescalate tensions with members of the minority community by the way they communicate and the level of respect that they attempt to show. White officers were less likely to accept that black citizens might have understandable reasons to distrust the police, and, as a consequence generally did not try to reduce tensions in encounters with minority citizens. They reported that if the citizen was disrespectful or uncooperative, they would respond forcefully as authorized. Equally importantly, some white officers described poor African Americans as having a sub-culture of distrust and criminality that they suggested could not be changed but only policed. White officers I interviewed were more apt to take black citizens' ill feelings as unjustified aggression. With regard to the second research question, the interviews reveal that having black officers on the police force has eroded solidarity among officers by opening disagreement among officers over how to conduct policing in poor minority neighborhoods. Following the writings of David Sklansky, this dissertation suggests that this is ultimately a positive development in policing in that black officers are changing these departments from white monolithic institutions to departments that are more accepting of the concerns of minority communities. Nonetheless, the interviews also reveal that black and white officers do not discuss racial tensions and how to address them as much as scholars once believed. Additionally, the interviews reveal that black officers overwhelmingly do not feel fully accepted into policing. These findings contribute to the answer with regard to the third question: whether black officers try to bring about change in police policies. The interviews reveal that black officers want to make recommendations to supervisors which would improve police departments' relationship with the black community but they do not actually make those recommendations because they lack a voice in the department. This lack of voice for black officers occurs regardless of the race of the chief, as it is the mid-level supervisors who most influence whether front-line officers are heard. Taken together, these findings may have significant implications for future research and police reform. The dissertation concludes by suggesting that having black officers may considerably improve the quality of interactions with black citizens, but that there is an unrealized potential for improvements in police policy on the basis of these officers' knowledge. Simply having black officers is not enough for departments to learn these lessons and improve their policies and training. To gain these benefits, departments would need to make their organizational climate more accepting of suggestions from black front-line officers. These findings also suggest that having diversity at the mid-grade supervisory level and at the top is as important as having diversity on the front-lines.
dc.format.extent205 pages
dc.publisherUniversity of Kansas
dc.rightsThis item is protected by copyright and unless otherwise specified the copyright of this thesis/dissertation is held by the author.
dc.subjectPublic administration
dc.subjectEmotional Labor
dc.subjectRepresentative Bureaucracy
dc.subjectStreet Level Bureaucracy
dc.titleDoes the Race of Police Officers Matter? Police Officers on Interactions with Citizens and Police Procedures
dc.contributor.cmtememberMaynard-Moody, Steven
dc.contributor.cmtememberO'Leary, Rosemary
dc.contributor.cmtememberPortillo, Shannon
dc.contributor.cmtememberStaples, William G
dc.thesis.degreeDisciplinePublic Administration

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