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Race, Ethnicity, and Policing

Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings

Stephen K. Rice
Michael D. White
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 542
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  • Book Info
    Race, Ethnicity, and Policing
    Book Description:

    From Rodney King and driving while black to claims of targeting of undocumented Latino immigrants, relationships surrounding race, ethnicity, and the police have faced great challenge. Race, Ethnicity, and Policing includes both classic pieces and original essays that provide the reader with a comprehensive, even-handed sense of the theoretical underpinnings, methodological challenges, and existing research necessary to understand the problems associated with racial and ethnic profiling and police bias. This path-breaking volume affords a holistic approach to the topic, guiding readers through the complexity of these issues, making clear the ecological and political contexts that surround them, and laying the groundwork for future discussions. The seminal and forward-thinking twenty-two essays clearly illustrate that equitable treatment of citizens across racial and ethnic groups by police is one of the most critical components of a successful democracy, and that it is only when agents of social control are viewed as efficient, effective, and legitimate that citizens will comply with the laws that govern their society. The book includes an introduction by Robin S. Engel and contributions from leading scholars including Jeffrey A. Fagan, James J. Fyfe, Bernard E. Harcourt, Delores Jones-Brown, Ramiro Martinez, Jr., Karen F. Parker, Alex R. Piquero, Tom R. Tyler, Jerome H. Skolnick, Ronald Weitzer, and many others.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7748-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Robin S. Engel

    I was a brand-new assistant professor at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in the fall of 1998. Sometime during those first few months, a high-ranking official from the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) whom I happened to meet casually asked me what I knew about racial profiling. My reply was honest: “Not much.” It was through this chance encounter with a PSP official that my work in racial profiling research began. I suspect that many researchers around the country had similar “chance” meetings and conversations that shaped their research agendas for years to come. Being both curious and eager as I...

  4. Overview
    (pp. 7-8)
    Stephen K. Rice and Michael D. White

    Irrespective of limitations in the perspectives employed in extant scholarship (e.g., criminological, legalistic, economic), methodological shortcomings in assessing police profiling and bias (e.g., determining benchmarks, or “denominators”), or arguments regarding the appropriate framing of deeply felt cultural subtexts (e.g., Amadou Diallo, the Jena Six, Sean Bell, Abner Louima, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Genarlow Wilson, Jean Charles de Menezes, FBI interviews of Muslim Americans, the depiction of undocumented immigrants as criminal aliens), at day’s end the study of race, ethnicity, and policing centers on whether police tend to respond to ascribed characteristics, to situations, or to a combination thereof as they...

  5. PART I The Context

    • Introduction to Part I
      (pp. 11-14)
      Stephen K. Rice

      The following section is foundational: it provides the criminological, sociological, social-psychological, and legal lens through which to better understand the theoretical basis and empirical examination of race, ethnicity, and policing. The section also provides the reader with a conceptual road map to better “place” the methodological advancements and controversies outlined later in the volume, illustrates how scholarship tends to coalesce around different ecological contexts and units of analysis (e. g., the neighborhood versus the individual), and provides an appreciation of how varied orthodoxies influence the pictures that get drawn. The chapters by Tyler and Fagan, and Weitzer are tasked with...

    • Chapter 1 A Sketch of the Policeman’s Working Personality
      (pp. 15-31)
      Jerome H. Skolnick

      A recurrent theme of the sociology of occupations is the effect of a man’s work on his outlook on the world.¹ Doctors, janitors, lawyers, and industrial workers develop distinctive ways of perceiving and responding to their environment. Here we shall concentrate on analyzing certain outstanding elements in the police milieu, danger, authority, and efficiency, as they combine to generate distinctive cognitive and behavioral responses in police: a “working personality.” Such an analysis does not suggest that all police are alike in “working personality,” but that there are distinctive cognitive tendencies in police as an occupational grouping. Some of these may...

    • Chapter 2 Driving While Black: A Statistician Proves That Prejudice Still Rules the Road
      (pp. 32-35)
      John Lamberth

      In 1993, I was contacted by attorneys whose clients had been arrested on the New Jersey Turnpike for possession of drugs. They told me they had come across 25 African American defendants over a three-year period all arrested on the same stretch of turnpike in Gloucester County, but not a single white defendant. I was asked whether, and how much, this pattern reflected unfair treatment of blacks.

      They wanted to know what a professional statistician would make of these numbers. What were the probabilities that this pattern could occur naturally, that is, by chance? Since arrests for drug offenses occurred...

    • Chapter 3 The Stories, the Statistics, and the Law: Why “Driving While Black” Matters
      (pp. 36-83)
      David A. Harris

      It has happened to actors Wesley Snipes, Will Smith, Blair Underwood, and LeVar Burton. It has also happened to football player Marcus Allen, and Olympic athletes Al Joyner and Edwin Moses. African Americans call it “driving while black”—police officers stopping, questioning, and even searching black drivers who have committed no crime, based on the excuse of a traffic offense. And it has even happened to O. J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran.

      In his pre-Simpson days, Cochran worked hand-in-hand with police officers as an Assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles, putting criminals behind bars. Cochran was driving down Sunset Boulevard...

    • Chapter 4 Legitimacy and Cooperation: Why Do People Help the Police Fight Crime in Their Communities?
      (pp. 84-117)
      Tom R. Tyler and Jeffrey Fagan

      To be effective in lowering crime and creating secure communities, the police must be able to elicit cooperation from community residents. Security cannot be produced by either the police or community residents acting alone—it requires cooperation. Such cooperation potentially involves, on the part of the public, both obeying the law¹ and working with the police or others in the community to help combat crime in the community.²

      How can cooperation be motivated, and, conversely, what factors defeat cooperation and for whom? To answer these questions, we contrast two models of cooperation. The first is a social control or instrumental...

    • Chapter 5 Race and Policing in Different Ecological Contexts
      (pp. 118-139)
      Ronald Weitzer

      A recent trend in policing research is its focus on ecological context. Demographic factors continue to be studied, but the literature is no longer confined to assessing the influence of individual-level variables on either officer behavior or citizens’ perceptions of the police. Scholars are increasingly realizing that place matters. This chapter examines current knowledge regarding the effects of three different contexts—neighborhoods, cities, and nations. But before proceeding to that discussion, I briefly summarize findings on selected individual-level predictors.

      Race/ethnicity is one of the strongest predictors of citizen attitudes and experiences with the police. Blacks and Latinos are more likely...

    • Chapter 6 Racially Biased Policing: A Review of the Judicial and Legislative Literature
      (pp. 140-174)
      Delores Jones-Brown and Brian A. Maule

      Though hotly debated in the attempts to empirically measure the existence (or not) of unwarranted use of race in law enforcement practices, such a definition, in operation, runs directly counter to the highly personal nature of constitutional rights embedded in the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment

      In part, an individual’s expectation of privacy and his or her right to be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion is secured in the Fourth Amendment, which provides, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be...

  6. PART II The Methods

    • Introduction to Part II
      (pp. 177-179)
      Michael D. White

      This section introduces the reader to the most common methods used to study issues related to race/ethnicity, bias, and policing. There are two overriding themes from the chapters in this section. First, there is no single best method to be used in the study of race/ethnicity, bias, and policing. The chapters by Ridgeway and MacDonald, and Paulhamus, Kane, and Piquero persuasively make this point, and they call for researchers to both understand the limits of their methods and use a range of approaches to compensate for those limitations. Second, while there may be no “magic bullet” when it comes to...

    • Chapter 7 Methods for Assessing Racially Biased Policing
      (pp. 180-204)
      Greg Ridgeway and John MacDonald

      Over the past ten years there has been a proliferation of research that has attempted to estimate the level of racial bias in police behavior. Many police agencies now mandate that their officers record official contacts made with citizens during routine traffic or pedestrian stops. These administrative data sources typically include a host of information on characteristics of the stops made by police officers, including: the race/ethnicity of the driver or pedestrian; reasons for the stop; and the actions that occurred after the stop, such as searches, contraband found, and citations or arrests made. These data have been the source...

    • Chapter 8 Using Geographic Information Systems to Study Race, Crime, and Policing
      (pp. 205-220)
      Matt R. Nobles

      Recently, the relationships between space (in the ecological or geographical sense) and other social phenomena have benefitted from advancements of powerful technologies that put new analytical methods into the hands of researchers and practitioners alike. In particular, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) has become indispensible in the study of policing, where it is relied on to help identify patterns in offending, guide resource deployment and targeted interventions, increase awareness of police-community relations, and a host of other roles. Although many examples of the application of GIS technology to policing may be available in the field, one highly visible model is the...

    • Chapter 9 Beyond Stop Rates: Using Qualitative Methods to Examine Racially Biased Policing
      (pp. 221-238)
      Rod K. Brunson

      Most of the research on citizens’ perceptions of and experiences with police has been based on surveys or official data. In addition, these studies have typically focused on discrete, one-time encounters rather than cumulative measures of police-citizen contacts. And while these investigations have highlighted the importance of race and age differences, they have not elicited the kind of information that would allow researchers to acquire deeper understandings of meanings for study participants. On the other hand, qualitative research methods provide a unique opportunity to examine and better understand the range of experiences that may influence individuals’ attitudes toward the police....

    • Chapter 10 State of the Science in Racial Profiling Research: Substantive and Methodological Considerations
      (pp. 239-258)
      Meaghan Paulhamus, Robert J. Kane and Alex R. Piquero

      Within the academic conceptualization of racial profiling, there are myriad nuanced ambiguities, such as “hard profiling” (the use of only race or ethnicity in a decision to stop a citizen) and “soft profiling” (the use of race or ethnicity as one of several factors in the decision to stop a citizen).¹ Ramirez and colleagues² offered an integrated definition of racial profiling, operationalizing it as “the inappropriate use of race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than behavior or individualized suspicion to focus on an individual for additional investigation.” As with many conceptualizations of racial profiling, Ramirez and colleagues’ definition highlights two...

  7. PART III The Research

    • Introduction to Part III
      (pp. 261-263)
      Michael D. White

      The primary objective of this section is to immerse the reader in the state-of-the-art research on race/ethnicity, bias, and policing. The section includes original contributions from the top experts in the country describing their latest work in this important area. There are three persistent themes in the collection of chapters presented here. The first theme is methodological, as the research clearly demonstrates a need to collect data from multiple sources, and to examine relationships among key variables at multiple levels of analysis. Chapters by Warren and colleagues, Engel and colleagues, Parker and colleagues, and White and Saunders, in particular, capture...

    • Chapter 11 Driving While Black: Bias Processes and Racial Disparity in Police Stops
      (pp. 264-286)
      Patricia Warren, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, William R. Smith, Matthew Zingraff and Marcinda Mason

      Minority citizens have long suspected that their risk of a traffic stop is not proportionate to either their driving infractions or presence on our nation’s roads and highways (ACLU, 1999; Weitzer and Tuch, 2002). A national survey suggests that this belief is shared by a majority of white citizens as well (Newport, 1999). Indeed, some scholars have argued that this practice is so pervasive that it should be referred to as the crime of “Driving While Black” (Gates, 1995). Media accounts (see Adams, 2000; Antonelli, 1996; Bell, 1992; Goldberg, 1999), racial profiling litigation in New Jersey and Maryland (see Lamberth,...

    • Chapter 12 Citizens’ Demeanor, Race, and Traffic Stops
      (pp. 287-308)
      Robin S. Engel, Charles F. Klahm IV and Rob Tillyer

      Since the 1960s, a body of academic literature has developed that seeks to explain police decision making during police-citizen encounters.¹ This body of research began with rich, ethnographic descriptions of police work, followed by more quantitative analyses designed to test hypotheses about extra-legal influences over police decision making. Collectively, this research has consistently demonstrated that legal factors have the strongest influence over the outcomes citizens receive during police-citizen encounters.² Of great importance, however, are findings from a handful of studies that suggest that extra-legal factors, including citizens’ characteristics, continue to influence police decision making even after other legal factors are...

    • Chapter 13 Street Stops and Broken Windows Revisited: The Demography and Logic of Proactive Policing in a Safe and Changing City
      (pp. 309-348)
      Jeffrey A. Fagan, Amanda Geller, Garth Davies and Valerie West

      The role of policing in New York City’s crime decline has been the subject of contentious debate for well over a decade. Violent crime reached its modern peak in New York City in 1991, followed by a 10 percent decline in 1992–93 (Fagan, Zimring, and Kim, 1998). This initial crime decline was spurred by the hiring and quick deployment in 1991 of five thousand additional officers under the Safe Streets Program (McCall, 1997; Greene, 1999; Waldeck, 2000; Karmen, 2000). During this initial decline, police tactics remained largely unchanged from the preceding years. Following the mayoral election in 1993, newly...

    • Chapter 14 Community Characteristics and Police Search Rates: Accounting for the Ethnic Diversity of Urban Areas in the Study of Black, White, and Hispanic Searches
      (pp. 349-367)
      Karen F. Parker, Erin C. Lane and Geoffrey P. Alpert

      Police officers’ decisions to conduct searches subsequent to traffic stops are based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, their own discretion.¹ Criminologists have long explored racial disparities in police behavior, ranging from arrest to incarceration.² More recently researchers have suggested that race plays a role in the determination to search beyond other relevant legal factors.³ But other studies have found no significant evidence of racial disparities in searches when taking into account hit rates⁴ or the constitutionality of the search.⁵ The role of race in the decision making of police officers continues to elude us.


    • Chapter 15 Blind Justice: Police Shootings in Memphis
      (pp. 368-381)
      James J. Fyfe

      The literature on police use of deadly force¹ has produced two major findings. First, researchers report extreme variation in rates of police shooting among American jurisdictions.² Second, regardless of its geographic scope, the research invariably reports that the percentage of police shootings involving black victims far exceeds the percentage of blacks in the population.³ This chapter examines factors affecting both of these findings.

      Attempts to identify sources of interjurisdictional shooting rate variation have produced mixed results. Milton suggests that differences among shooting rates are associated with differences in levels of community violence and risk to officers.⁴ Kania and Mackey, in...

    • Chapter 16 Race, Bias, and Police Use of the TASER: Exploring the Available Evidence
      (pp. 382-404)
      Michael D. White and Jessica Saunders

      The first two quotes above, the first from the late 1960s and the second from the mid-1990s, underscore the long history of tension and violence between police departments and minority communities in the United States. This history is perhaps best illustrated by the over-representation of blacks as victims of police use of force. For example, results from the Police-Public Contact Survey indicated that, in 2002, blacks represented 9.7 percent of persons who had contact with police, but they accounted for 26.3 percent of cases where police used force.⁴ Minority over-representation in use of force by police has been a long-standing...

  8. PART IV The Future

    • Introduction to Part IV
      (pp. 407-410)
      Stephen K. Rice

      Two goals ofRace, Ethnicity, and Policinghave been to outline the multidisciplinary theoretical foundations of the study of race, ethnicity, and policing and to provide heuristics for the empirical assessment of a relationship (the police/minority community) which has faced great challenge. The final section in the volume, “The Future,” attempts to offer a way forward by examining the experiences of previously understudied populations (e.g., Hispanics/Latinos, immigrants, Muslim Americans), specifying innovative analytical strategies (e.g., coupling neighborhood context with spatial dynamics), offering alternatives to actuarial (predictive) methods in policing, and outlining how police departments can stem future incidents of racially and...

    • Chapter 17 Space, Place, and Immigration: New Directions for Research on Police Stops
      (pp. 411-434)
      Brian J. Stults, Karen F. Parker and Erin C. Lane

      A report from the U.S. Department of Justice on incarceration trends shows that the incarceration rate of blacks is six times the rate of whites (2,209 vs. 366 per 100,000 residents), while Hispanics are twice as likely to be incarcerated as whites (759 vs. 336 per 100,000).¹ While researchers offer a number of different perspectives on the high rates of crime and arrests among blacks,² other scholars consider the cause to stem from law enforcement officers’ use of race as a determinant for stopping, searching, or arresting black individuals.³ In light of this research, the study of race, ethnicity, and...

    • Chapter 18 Revisiting the Role of Latinos and Immigrants in Police Research
      (pp. 435-449)
      Ramiro Martínez Jr.

      The scarcity of research on Latinos and policing is one of the most enduring shortcomings in the development of race/ethnicity and the criminal justice system scholarship.¹ This oversight is curious since scholars in the 1931 Wickersham Commission report focused on police treatment of Mexican immigrants, a topic central to early work on immigrants and crime, and one pivotal to early studies on the effects of Mexican immigration into the United States.² Pioneering research on Latinos and police also include overlooked studies on Border Patrol mistreatment of “illegal” aliens,³ state police abuse of the Mexican origin in Texas,⁴ and the “contentious...

    • Chapter 19 New Avenues for Profiling and Bias Research: The Question of Muslim Americans
      (pp. 450-467)
      Stephen K. Rice and William S. Parkin

      Limited attention has been paid to Muslim Americans’ interactions with the justice system and domestic security apparatus. Instead, the “Muslim American experience” has typically been framed by the structural (e.g., matters of assimilation; socioeconomics), sociopolitical (e.g., perceptions of U.S. domestic and foreign policy; a “clash of civilizations”), or codal (religious teachings). In an attempt to chart a course forward, this chapter assesses how perceived injustice and negative emotions (e.g., humiliation, moral outrage) must come to hold a more central position in assessments of def

      On a July day in 2007, two men on a Washington State ferry were photographed after...

    • Chapter 20 Preventing Racially Biased Policing through Internal and External Controls: The Comprehensive Accountability Package
      (pp. 468-488)
      Michael D. White

      The quotes above are related to two infamous cases of police misconduct from the 1990s. The first comes from the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department (hereafter called the Christopher Commission), which investigated the LAPD in the wake of the Rodney King beating. As part of their investigation, the commission reviewed more than six months of Mobile Digital Terminal (MDT) transmissions and found “an appreciable number of disturbing and recurrent racial remarks,” clearly suggesting that “the officers typing the MDT messages apparently had little concern that they would be disciplined for making such remarks.”³ The second quote comes...

    • Chapter 21 Democratic Policing: How Would We Know It If We Saw It?
      (pp. 489-504)
      Matthew J. Hickman

      At the heart of any discussion about race, ethnicity, and policing is the issue offairness. Fairness in law enforcement is a cornerstone of democratic policing, marked by the fundamental expectation of equal treatment under the law regardless of one’s race or ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other extralegal factors. The purpose of this chapter is to reflect on democratic policing in the United States, and to ask some very tough questions regarding how much we really know about fairness in law enforcement. In brief, the problem is that the United States strongly advocates democratic policing abroad, but is...

    • Chapter 22 Moving Beyond Profiling: The Virtues of Randomization
      (pp. 505-524)
      Bernard E. Harcourt

      Racial profiling is best understood as a type of law enforcement technique that relies, at least in theory, on actuarial methods to target individuals and resources. The only legitimate justification for racial profiling—for the deliberate and affirmative use of race in policing—would be that the method serves as a type of statistical discrimination that more effectively and efficiently allocates law enforcement resources. Although racial profiling is never really based on scientific evidence of differential offending rates—given that it operates in a hidden manner and is generally denied—profiling can only ever be justified if there is no...

  9. About the Contributors
    (pp. 525-528)
  10. Index
    (pp. 529-535)