Chapter 4 – Multicultural Populations
Key Learning Objectives:
- Be able to identify the key issues and concepts among ethnic groups in the United States.
- Identify how officers can better interact with different ethnic groups to improve relations
- Identify other minority groups and special population that police encounter in the community
- Be able to provide how awareness of these populations can improve relations between police and the community they serve
4.1 - Law Enforcement contact with ethnic groups14
Research consistently shows that minorities are more likely than whites to view law enforcement with suspicion and distrust. Minorities frequently report that the police disproportionately single them out because of their race or ethnicity. The public's perceptions about the lawfulness and legitimacy of law enforcement are an important criterion for judging policing in a democratic society. Lawfulness means that police comply with constitutional, statutory and professional norms. Legitimacy is linked to the public's belief about the police and its willingness to recognize police authority. Racial and ethnic minority perceptions that the police lack lawfulness and legitimacy, based largely on their interactions with the police, can lead to distrust of the police. Distrust of police has serious consequences. It undermines the legitimacy of law enforcement, and without legitimacy police lose their ability and authority to function effectively.
Many law enforcement agencies have allowed researchers to study efforts to improve the lawfulness and legitimacy of their policing activities. They do so because they want to raise the level of trust and confidence of the people they serve while controlling crime effectively. Although data show that whites hold the police in higher regard than do minorities, race has not been found to directly influence how people form opinions about law enforcement. In fact, when researchers controlled for factors such as the level of neighborhood crime, the reported quality of police-citizen encounters, and other demographic variables such as age, income and education, the effects of race disappeared entirely or were substantially reduced. Researchers concluded that race affects satisfaction with the police indirectly and in conjunction with other factors, including the level of crime within one's neighborhood.
There have been different outcomes for different racial groups in convicting and sentencing felons in the United States Criminal Justice System. Experts and analysts have debated the relative importance of different factors that have led to these disparities. Minority defendants are charged with crimes requiring a mandatory minimum prison sentence more often, in both relative and absolute terms (depending on the classification of race, mainly in regard to Hispanics), leading to large racial disparities in incarceration.
Pin It! Racial inequality in Incarceration
Does race play a role in capital punishment? Click here to learn what percent of adult males incarcerated by race and ethnicity and here to overview violent crime rates by race of victim 1973-2003.
At the end of 2002 the Bureau of Justice released data stating there were 3,042 black male prisoners per 100,000 black males, 1,261 Hispanic male prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males and 487 white male prisoners per 100,000 white males within the United States. According to Antonio Moore in his Huffington Post article, “there are more African American men incarcerated in the U.S. than the total prison populations in India, Argentina, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined.” There are only 19 million African American males in the United States, collectively these countries represent over 1.6 billion people. There is a total of a mere 18.5 million African American males of all ages in the United States.
Think About It . . . Black Male Incarceration
“The Black Male Incarceration Problem Is Real and It’s Catastrophic” is the title of an article from the Huffington post. Click to read the article. What do you think of the article’s premise? Do you agree or disagree? Would you be able to support your viewpoint with sources?
Likelihood of Incarceration
The likelihood of black males going to prison in their lifetime is 28% compared to 4% for white males and 16% for Hispanic males. Some factors used to attempt to explain the racial disparities in the criminal justice system besides race itself include socioeconomic status, the environment in which a person was raised, and the highest educational level a person achieves. For the Baby Boomers, some 1.2% of white men and 9% of black men had been imprisoned by 2004, according to Bruce Western, a Harvard sociology professor. Out of those born in the 1970s, 3.3% of white men and 20.7% of black men had been in prison.
Effect of race on likelihood of conviction
Various studies have shown that, in recent decades, there has been no noticeable disparity in black vs white conviction likelihood for those accused in black-run vs white-controlled cities, say Atlanta vs San Diego. In the largest counties, the rates of prosecution for accused blacks was slightly less than the prosecution rates for whites, for example. “…the only hint of racial disparity was to the advantage, not disadvantage, of blacks accused of crimes.”
Race and the death penalty
Various scholars have addressed what they perceived as the systemic racial bias present in the administration of capital punishment in the United States. There is also a large disparity between races when it comes to sentencing convicts to Death Row. The federal death penalty data released by the United States Department of Justice between 1995–2000 shows that 682 defendants were sentenced to death. Out of those 682 defendants, the defendant was black in 48% of the cases, Hispanic in 29% of the cases, and white in 20% of the cases. 52.5% of people who committed homicides in the 1980-2005 time period were black.
Pin It! Capital Punishment and Race
Does race play a role in capital punishment? Click here to learn more.
Contributing factors to the rise in the penal population
In 2013, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. In the 1980s U.S. legislation issued a number of new drug laws with stiffer penalties that ranged from drug possession to drug trafficking. Many of those charged with drug crimes saw longer prison sentences and less judicial leniency when facing trial. The War on Drugs has furthered the boom in prison population even though violent crime has continued to steadily decrease.
A lot of urban areas in the U.S. have a majority black population. With crime tendencies high in these areas, drugs are also prevalent. This means that a greater percentage of those in prison are going to be black because law enforcement is already concentrated in the areas with high violent crime and drug crime. With this new drug legislation, the U.S. government has increased the use of incarceration for social control which has resulted in “sharper disproportionate effects on African Americans.”
Pin It! Three-Strikes Law
Learn more about the three strikes law here.
Factors affecting incarceration rates
Blacks had a higher chance of going to prison especially if they drop out of high school. If a Black male drop out of high school, he had an over 50% chance of being incarcerated in his lifetime, as compared to an 11% chance for White male high school dropouts. Socio-economic, geographic, and educational disparities, as well as alleged unequal treatment in the criminal justice system, contributed to this gap in incarceration rates by race. Failure to achieve literacy (reading at “grade level”) by the third or fourth grade makes the likelihood of future incarceration twenty times more likely than other students. Some states use this measurement to predict how much prison space they will require in the future. It appears to be a poverty issue rather than a race issue.
Effects on families and neighborhoods
With violent crime on the rise in the late 20th century coupled with the war on drugs violations, penal population growth sent shockwaves through the most fragile families and neighborhoods that were least equipped to deal with the problem. Since the majority of people in the prison population are minorities and lower-class individuals, the people they leave behind have to deal with extraordinary circumstances. This burden has left families broken and children are the victims of single-parent homes which increases the percentage of these children going to jail earlier than most. With the majority of the prison population being men, “women are left in free society to raise families and contend with ex-prisoners returning home after release.”
Children raised in single-parent homes are less supervised which leads to less emphasis on education and self-determination. The result of this situation is that society is damaged and has to take on the financial burden of children growing up in crime ridden neighborhoods and going to prison. When a family member is arrested, the family loses not only that person’s income, but also acquire additional expenses involved in keeping contact with the incarcerated family member.
The current prison complex serves as a punitive system in which mass incarceration has become the response to problems in society. Field studies regarding prison conditions describe behavioral changes produced by prolonged incarceration and conclude that imprisonment undermines the social life of inmates by exacerbating criminality or impairing their capacity for normal social interaction. Moreover, this racial disparity in imprisonment, particularly with African Americans, subjects them to political subordination by destroying their positive connection with society. Institutional factors – such as the prison industry complex itself – become enmeshed in everyday lives, so much so that prisons no longer function as “law enforcement” systems.
Crime in poorer urban neighborhoods is linked to increased rates of mass incarceration, as job opportunities decline, and people turn to crime for survival. Crime among low-education men is often linked to the economic decline among unskilled workers. These economic problems are also tied to reentry into society after incarceration. Data from the Washington State Department of Corrections and Employment Insurance records show how “the wages of black ex-inmates grow about 21 percent more slowly each quarter after release than the wages of white ex-inmates.” Black ex-inmates earn 10 percent less than white ex-inmates post incarceration.
Problems resulting from mass incarceration extend beyond economic and political aspects to reach community lives as well. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 46% of black female inmates were likely to have grown up in a home with only their mothers. A study by Bresler and Lewis shows how incarcerated African American women were more likely to have been raised in a single female headed household while incarcerated white women were more likely to be raised in a two-parent household. Black women’s lives are often shaped by the prison system because they have intersecting familial and community obligations. The “increase incarceration of black men and the sex ratio imbalance it induces shape the behavior of young black women.”
Education, fertility, and employment for black women are affected due to increased mass incarceration. Black women’s employment rates were increased, shown in Mechoulan’s data, due to increased education. Higher rates of black male incarceration lowered the odds of nonmarital teenage motherhood and black women’s ability to get an educational degree, thus resulting in early employment. Whether incarcerated themselves or related to someone who was incarcerated, women are often conformed into stereotypes of how they are supposed to behave yet are isolated from society at the same time.
Furthermore, this system can disintegrate familial life and structure. Black and Latino youth are more likely to be incarcerated after coming in contact with the American juvenile justice system. In a study by Victor Rios, 75% of prison inmates in the United States are Black and Latinos between the ages of 20 and 39. Furthermore, societal institutions – such as schools, families, and community centers can impact youth by initiating them into this system of criminalization from an early age. These institutions, traditionally set up to protect the youth, contribute to mass incarceration by mimicking the criminal justice system.
From a different perspective, parents in prison face further moral and emotional dilemmas because they are separated from their children. Both black and white women face difficulty with where to place their children while incarcerated and how to maintain contact with them. According to the study by Bresler and Lewis, black women are more likely to leave their children with related kin whereas white women’s children are likely to be placed in foster care. In a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed how in 1999, seven percent of black children had a parent in prison, making them nine times more likely to have an incarcerated parent than white children.
Having parents in prison can have adverse psychological effects as children are deprived of parental guidance, emotional support, and financial help. Because many prisons are located in remote areas, incarcerated parents face physical barriers in seeing their children and vice versa. Societal influences, such as low education among African American men, can also lead to higher rates of incarceration. Imprisonment has become “disproportionately widespread among low-education black men” in which the penal system has evolved to be a “new feature of American race and class inequality”. Scholar Pettit and Western’s research has shown how incarceration rates for African Americans are “about eight times higher than those for whites,” and prison inmates have less than “12 years of completed schooling” on average.
These factors all impact released prisoners who try to reintegrate into society. According to a national study, within three years of release, almost 7 in 10 will have been rearrested. Many released prisoners have difficulty transitioning back into societies and communities from state and federal prisons because the social environment of peers, family, community, and state level policies all impact prison reentry; the process of leaving prison or jail and returning to society. Men eventually released from prison will most likely return to their same communities, putting additional strain on already scarce resources as they attempt to garner the assistance they need to successfully reenter society. Due to the lack of resources, these same men will continue along this perpetuating cycle.
A major challenge for prisoners re-entering society is obtaining employment, especially for individuals with a felony on their record. A study utilizing U.S. Census occupational data in New Jersey and Minnesota in 2000 found that “individuals with felon status would have been disqualified from approximately one out of every 6.5 occupations in New Jersey and one out of every 8.5 positions in Minnesota”. As African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately affected by felon status, these additional limitations on employment opportunity were shown to exacerbate racial disparities in the labor market.
4.2 - Americans of Asian/Pacific Island Decent16
There are nearly 15 million Asian Americans in the United States, according to the 2010 Census, which is approximately 5 percent of the total U.S. population.10 Asian Americans trace their roots to dozens of countries in the Far East, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Six groups—listed here from highest population to the lowest—make up the vast majority (about 80 percent) of the Asian-American population in the U.S.: Chinese (about four million), Filipino, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese (about 1.3 million).
In addition to any historical or “imported” experiences with law enforcement in their countries of origin, where law enforcement may have been corrupt and abusive, Asian-American children are often taught to fear police. Threats of calling the police can be used to control misbehaving children to force them into submission.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, about half of the documented Asian-American population speaks English “less than very well” or is limited English proficient. Language barriers can pose significant challenges for Asian American-police interactions. Similar to the experiences of other immigrant and refugee groups, language barriers often prevent Asian Americans from reporting crime. How do language barriers affect routine patrol activities? Traffic stops can be a challenge when the driver does not speak English. In these situations, officers cannot explain the process that follows getting a ticket or summons. Even in situations where Asian Americans are proficient in English, they may prefer to speak their native language because of the seriousness of the situation.
4.3 - African Americans and the Criminal Justice System
African American Heritage - From Slavery to Freedom17
When Americans think of African-Americans in the deep south before the Civil War, the first image that invariably comes to mind is one of slavery. However, many African-Americans were able to secure their freedom and live in a state of semi-freedom even before slavery was abolished by war. Free blacks lived in all parts of the United States, but the majority lived amid slavery in the American South. It is estimated that by 1860 there were about 1.5 million free blacks in the southern states.
How did African-Americans become free? Some slaves bought their own freedom from their owners, but this process became more and more rare as the 1800s progressed. Many slaves became free through manumission, the voluntary emancipation of a slave by a slaveowner. Manumission was sometimes offered because slaves had outlived their usefulness or were held in special favor by their masters. The offspring of interracial relations were often set free. Some slaves were set free by their masters as the abolitionist movement grew. Occasionally slaves were freed during the master's lifetime, and more often through the master's will. Many African-Americans freed themselves through escape. A few Americans of African descent came to the United States as immigrants, especially common in the New Orleans area.
Were free blacks offered the same rights as free whites? The answer is quite simply no. For example, a Virginia law, passed in the early 1830s, prohibited the teaching of all blacks to read or write. Free blacks throughout the South were banned from possessing firearms or preaching the Bible. Later laws even prohibited Negroes who went out of state to get an education from returning. In many states, the slave codes that were designed to keep African-Americans in bondage were also applied to free persons of color. Most horrifically, free blacks could not testify in court. If a slave catcher claimed that a free African-American was a slave, the accused could not defend himself in court.
Free blacks were highly skilled as artisans, businesspeople, educators, writers, planters, musicians, tailors, hairdressers, and cooks. African-American inventors like Thomas L. Jennings, who invented a method for the dry cleaning of clothes, and Henry Blair Glenn Ross, who patented a seed planter, contributed to the advancement of science. Some owned property and kept boarding houses, and some even owned slaves themselves. Prominent among free persons of color of the period are Frederick Douglass, Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and Harriet Tubman.
Starting as early as 1663, slaves were organizing revolts to regain their freedom. Hundreds of minor uprisings occurred on American plantations during the two and a half centuries of slavery. Most of the uprisings were small in scope and were put down easily. Some were larger in ambition and sent a chill down the spines of countless Southern planters. Two of the most famous revolts were in the early nineteenth century. One was led by Denmark Vesey and the other was led by Nat Turner.
An End to Slavery
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War, abolished slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Separate but not Equal – The Jim Crow Era
During the first half of the 20th century, the United States existed as two nations in one. The Supreme Court ruling in PLESSY V. FERGUSON (1896) decreed that the legislation of two separate societies — one black and one white — was permitted as long as the two were equal. States across the North and South passed laws creating schools and public facilities for each race. These regulations, known as Jim Crow laws, reestablished white authority after it had diminished during the Reconstruction era. Across the land, blacks and whites dined at separate restaurants, bathed in separate swimming pools, and drank from separate water fountains.
The United States had established an American brand of apartheid. In the aftermath of World War II, America sought to demonstrate to the world the merit of free democracies over communist dictatorships. But its segregation system exposed fundamental hypocrisy. Change began brewing in the late 1940s. President Harry Truman ordered the end of segregation in the armed services, and Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball. But the wall built by Jim Crow legislation seemed insurmountable.
The first major battleground was in the schools. It was very clear by mid-century that southern states had expertly enacted separate educational systems. These schools, however, were never equal. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (NAACP), led by attorney Thurgood Marshall, sued public schools across the South, insisting that the "SEPARATE BUT EQUAL" CLAUSE had been violated.
In no state where distinct racial education laws existed was there equality in public spending. Teachers in white schools were paid better wages, school buildings for white students were maintained more carefully, and funds for educational materials flowed more liberally into white schools. States normally spent 10 to 20 times on the education of white students as they spent on African American students.
The Supreme Court finally decided to rule on this subject in 1954 in the landmark BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA case. The verdict was unanimous against segregation. "Separate facilities are inherently unequal," read Chief Justice EARL WARREN's opinion. Warren worked tirelessly to achieve a 9-0 ruling. He feared any dissent might provide a legal argument for the forces against integration. The united Supreme Court sent a clear message: schools had to integrate.
The North and the border states quickly complied with the ruling, but the Brown decision fell on deaf ears in the South. The Court had stopped short of insisting on immediate integration, instead asking local governments to proceed "with all deliberate speed" in complying. Ten years after Brown, fewer than ten percent of Southern public schools had integrated. Some areas achieved a zero percent compliance rate. The ruling did not address separate restrooms, bus seats, or hotel rooms, so Jim Crow laws remained intact. But cautious first steps toward an equal society had been taken. It would take a decade of protest, legislation, and bloodshed before America neared a truer equality.
Civil Rights Movement
In 1950, the United States operated under an apartheid-like system of legislated white supremacy. Although the Civil War did bring an official end to slavery in the United States, it did not erase the social barriers built by that “peculiar institution.” Despite the efforts of radical reconstructionist, the American South emerged from the Civil War with a system of laws that undermined the freedom of African Americans and preserved many elements of white privilege. No major successful attack was launched on the segregation system until the 1950s.
Beginning with the Supreme Court's school integration ruling of 1954, the American legal system seemed sympathetic to African American demands that their Fourteenth Amendment Civil Rights be protected. Soon, a peaceful equality movement began under the unofficial leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A wave of marches, boycotts, sit-ins, and freedom rides swept the American South and even parts of the North.
Pin It! The Civil Rights Movement
Watch this history crash course on the American civil rights movement.
Public opinion polls across the nation and the world revealed a great deal of sympathy for African Americans. The Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations gave the Civil Rights Movement at least tacit support. Although many obstacles to complete racial equity remained, by 1965 most legal forms of discrimination had been abolished.
Legal equality did not bring economic equality and social acceptance. Gains made by civil rights activists did not bring greater unity in the movement. On the contrary, as the 1960s progressed, a radical wing of the movement grew stronger and stronger. Influenced by Malcolm X, the Black Power Movement rejected the policy of nonviolence at all costs and even believed integration was not a desirable short-term goal. Black nationalists called for the establishment of a nation of African Americans dependent on each other for support without the interference or help of whites.
Race-related violence began to spread across the country. Beginning in 1964, a series of "long, hot summers" of rioting plagued urban centers. More and more individuals dedicated to African American causes became victims of assassination. Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. were a few of the more famous casualties of the tempest. Hope and optimism gave way to alienation and despair as the 1970s began. Many realized that although changing racist laws was actually relatively simple, changing racist attitudes was a much more difficult task.
Pin It! Spotlight - Wealth disparities
The homeownership rate for black households was 44.9 percent in 2011, lagging far behind the homeownership rate for whites (73.8 percent). Since fewer than half of black household’s own homes, this means that for the median (typical) black household, there is zero wealth from home equity. The median black household also owns no stock.
The Great Recession decimated wealth from all demographic groups, but minorities were especially hard hit. While median wealth of white households sank 35.8 percent, it plummeted for black households (49.7 percent), and nosedived for Latino households (86.3 percent) from 2007–2010.
- 27.4% - In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks lived in in poverty, compared to the overall U.S. poverty rate of 15.1 percent.
- 45.8% - 45.8 percent of black children under age 6 lived in poverty, more than three times the rate for young white children.
- 62.9% - 62.9 percent of black children whose families were in the bottom fourth of all families by income remained in the bottom fourth as adults. This measure of downward mobility was about twice the rate (32.3 percent) for whites.
- 3.6% - Only 3.6 percent of black children from the bottom fourth made it to the top fourth of the income scale, an upward mobility rate about one-fourth the rate for whites.
4.4 - Americans of Hispanic Decent18
Police engagement with immigrant Latino communities has been challenging for decades, in large part because of immigration policies and the fear of law enforcement officials present throughout these communities. As a result, members of Latino communities often become victims of crimes commonly experienced among immigrant populations, including robbery of day workers (who are often carrying a day’s or even a week’s worth of wages), exploitation by employers taking advantage of an individual’s immigration status by withholding wages or violating U.S. labor laws, and domestic violence perpetrated by an abuser who knows that his or her victim will not approach police for assistance. Research has shown that undocumented immigrants are less likely to report crime for fear of deportation and are less likely to call 911, access emergency care in life-threatening situations, or approach police as victims or witnesses of crime, for the same reasons. As a result, law enforcement agencies often have to make concerted efforts to engage and build trust with this vulnerable community.
In Mount Kisco, New York, a community of more than 11,000 people—35 percent of whom are Latinos, primarily from Guatemala, Ecuador, and Colombia—the Mount Kisco Police and Community Together (PACT) program was created to strengthen the relationship between police and the immigrant Latino population, many of whom may be unfamiliar with local laws and police procedures. In order to address the common barriers to reaching immigrant communities and promote effective communication, PACT’s strategies include organizing community meetings at local houses of worship;
providing cultural competency training for police officers; recruiting volunteer community liaisons.
Community meetings are held at local houses of worship to provide a safe and public environment for police and Latino immigrants to meet, communicate, and learn from one another. The meetings, are held in English and Spanish, have helped build trust and rapport between police and how to Serve Diverse Communities immigrant Latinos, providing a venue to address concerns and questions and share information that directly affects the immigrant population. Topics which are addressed at Latino community meetings can include any of the following:
- Predominant community safety concerns
- Common landlord/tenant disputes and rights
- Workers’ rights
- Available after-school programs and childcare services
- How to access alcohol and drug abuse prevention services
- How to access domestic violence services
- How to access medical services
- Eligibility information for local food pantries and shelters.
Police need to aware of the cultural factors in the Hispanic community, such as machismo and an unequal gender balance may be more prominent in immigrant Latino families. Social culture and religious values shape family roles and gender socialization, and immigrant Latino families are often discouraged from sharing anything negative about themselves or their family dynamics with outsiders, making police investigations of any kind very difficult.
What do police need to know regarding Latino family structures? Like many families, Latino families can be paternalistic, which can make it difficult for law enforcement and child protective agencies to investigate allegations of child abuse. Among Latinos, there is often a high value on the collective nature of “la familia,” and issues that may affect family dignity or reputation are often kept secret in an effort to protect the family unit.
4.5 - Americans of Middle Eastern / Indian decent19
There is no better application of the principles of good policing than in the post-September 11 environment. In the face of the dramatic terrorist attacks against the United States, the vast majority of America's communities responded with restraint, tolerance, and good will. At the forefront of these efforts have been police chiefs and other law enforcement executives, who captured the spirit of police-community cooperation. This has been no small challenge, given the divisions, fears, and other internal stresses which arose during this unprecedented emergency.
Police chiefs and other local officials recognized that this was a time for police-community cooperation and collaboration, a time to minimize any divisions and distractions from the common national priority of combating terrorism. Homeland security requires communities of cooperation and citizens of goodwill. A climate of personal safety and protection requires increased trust of governmental institutions and agencies, especially law enforcement. Important information is more likely to be volunteered to authorities. Suspicious and unusual activity will be reported, and investigations can proceed. Further, public trust and confidence reduce community tensions, especially between groups that may feel unprotected and suspected by government institutions.
The aftermath of September 11, 2001 became an opportunity for police departments to deepen their relationships with Arab-American, Sikh, and Muslim communities. While these communities were fairly well established, there had been little occasion for outreach and educational activities before September 11. Since September 11, 2001, public forums, dialogues, and other events designed to build bridges between police departments and these communities have taken place.
What were some of the elements which helped to create the positive relations, especially between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve?
Tone-setting messages by public officials ranging from the Nation's highest public officials to town mayors and police chiefs helped to create an atmosphere of moderation and restraint. Their public cautions against misdirected behavior towards fellow citizens and pledges to vigorously prosecute of any attacks against individuals or groups went a long way towards establishing expectations of fairness and justice.
Prompt and sensitive attention by government and law enforcement officials to racial and ethnic attacks and incidents helped to create trust and confidence in public officials and institutions. When incidents and hate crimes were reported, most law enforcement agencies reacted with dispatch, sensitivity, and thoroughness.
Improved cooperation and coordination among Federal, regional, and local policing and other law enforcement agencies helped bridge jurisdictional tensions and prevent conflicts. Since September 11, investigative agencies have enjoyed unparalleled cooperation, combining resources and experience in their investigative and prosecutorial efforts.
Intensive training by police and government agencies in Arab, Muslim, and Sikh issues helped to head off cross-cultural conflicts, misunderstandings, and tensions. Law enforcement agencies recognized that they needed to deepen their understanding of these cultures, and many secured trainings to help officers to be sensitive to the particular cross-cultural dimensions of police work.
Outreach by police departments to Arab-American, Muslim, and Sikh communities provided police and leaders from these communities an opportunity to develop cooperative working relationships. Effective policing involved deliberate efforts by police chiefs to extend their connections to these communities by visits, calls, and public forums to listen, learn of concerns, and reassure members of these communities that their concerns.
4.6 - Native Americans20
What is Indian Country, and what is meant when the term Indian reservations and Indian nations is used? Whom do police in Indian Country serve? What does the typical police department in Indian Country look like (especially, who polices Indian Country)? And finally, what are the basics of the criminal justice system in Indian Country? This section sets the scene for the discussions that follow.
Pin It! What Is “Indian Country”?
“Indian Country” comprises the 56 million acres of land owned by Indian communities in the United States.1 According to the BIA (1998a) there are more than 330 federally recognized Indian tribes in the lower 48 United States. Nearly all tribes have reservations, which are lands the United States “reserved for” tribes in treaties, statutes, or executive orders during the Euro-American western expansion of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries (BIA 1998b). Most of Indian Country is located west of the Mississippi River, but it also includes a number of reservations belonging to tribes in the East. Overall, Indians live on reservations in 34 continental States, and all reservations have some form of policing arrangement (BIA 1998b; Bureau of the Census 1993).
Increasingly, tribes are referred to as “nations” to acknowledge their distinct political status vis-à-vis the U.S. Federal and State governments: Indian governments are not part of the Federal hierarchy but, instead, have a government-to-government relationship with the United States (Reno 1995). Under this arrangement, American Indians hold dual citizenship as citizens of both the United States and their Native nation. Because limitations on tribal authority do exist (for example, tribes do not float their own currencies or provide for their own defense), it may be more accurate to describe Indian nations as semi-sovereign, or “domestic dependent nations,” as Chief Justice Marshall did in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (30 U.S. (5 Pet.)1(1831)). Yet, while tribes control a narrower scope of policy than do such nations as Germany and Brazil, they have significantly more scope for policy making than cities or even U.S. States. Indian nations adopt constitutions for their societies, write civil laws to regulate conduct and commerce within their territorial boundaries, and enforce those laws with their own judicial systems. In brief, modern tribes exercise substantial, but not complete, rights of self-determination and self-government.
Whom Do Police in Indian Country Serve?
In 1995, the BIA estimated a non-Alaska service population (the number of Natives living on or very near reservations) of 1.1 million. Other estimates are higher. Using data from the 1990 census and a historical growth factor, the Indian Health Service (1997) estimated a 1996 non-Alaska service population of more than 1.3 million, which would rise by more than 100,000 by the year 2000. These differences reflect difficulties in enumerating the reservation-based Indian population, the high birth rates that are typical on many reservations, and in some cases, in-migration.
Improved economic opportunities are the primary cause of in-migration in the Indian communities where it is occurring, but such positive economic changes are the exception rather than the rule. In particular, the perception that Native Americans are generally enjoying increased prosperity as a result of the growth of the gaming industry is mistaken. According to the Government Accounting Office (1997), almost half of all gaming revenues earned in 1995 were generated by only 8 of the 184 gaming tribes. Thus, despite new tribal opportunities and ventures, American Indians remain the poorest minority in the United States. Those living in reservation communities, commonly characterized by severe unemployment (sometimes reaching 80 to 90 percent) and the attendant social and economic symptoms of poverty, are the worst off of all.
Important education and health outcomes also are poor. For example, as of 1990, the high school completion rate among reservation-resident Natives age 25 and over was 54 percent; the national rate for all races was 78 percent (Bureau of the Census 1993, 312, table 7; 1998, 158, table 243). Rates of alcoholism among American Indians are extraordinarily high, and even higher than for other minorities, who are themselves at increased risk of alcohol abuse (see, for example, Greenfeld 1998). Consequently, the rates among Natives of alcohol-related health problems—chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, fetal alcohol syndrome—are much higher than for other population groups. Indexes of social dysfunction, such as suicide and homicide, are also much higher than for either the general population or other minority populations; for instance, the suicide rate is almost triple that of the general population (Indian Health Service 1997).
Even so, many Indian nations are experiencing significant counter trends. For example, through aggressive economic development and effective governance, unemployment among the Mississippi Choctaw fell from 80 percent in the early 1980s to virtually zero in 1996; average family income increased approximately seven-fold, to $22,000, during the same period (Bordewich 1996). The Gila River Indian Community was able to provide funding to more than 200 college students in the late 1990s, as opposed to only a handful earlier in the decade. This support will dramatically increase the percentage of community members who are recorded as college graduates in the next census.3 In sum, Indian Country comprises a striking variety of economic and social conditions and characteristics.
An important additional type of variation is the substantial cultural diversity found among American Indian communities. Although “American Indian” is a single race category on the U.S. Census, this grouping hides the fact that members of one tribe can be as different from members of another tribe as citizens of Greece are from citizens of Vietnam. Certainly, tribes’ geographic dispersion is one source of diversity. Peoples sharing similar natural surroundings developed somewhat similar cultures and related languages; tribal subgroups then refined the common culture in distinct ways, which gave rise to a wide variety of cultures throughout Indian Country.
One rough categorization of these differences separates the Indians of the continental United States into five cultural-geographic groups:
- Farmers of the eastern forests.
- Nomadic hunters of the plains and prairies.
- Farmers and herders of the Southwest.
- Seed gatherers of California.
- Ocean and river fishermen of the Northwest (Driver 1969; Waldman 1985).
Another method for classifying Native Americans’ cultural diversity is based on language. Early studies found more than 70 distinct linguistic families and isolates among some 250 North American Indian languages. However, with the extinction of some languages and reclassification of others, linguists now group most extant North American Indian languages into six primary families:
- Eskimo and Aleut (Far North).
- Algonquian (various tribes in the eastern forests, the Plains, and the Far West).
- Athabascan and related languages (the Mackenzie-Yukon Basin, the Navajos in the Southwest, and some West Coast peoples).
- Uto-Aztecan and related languages (the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains area, the Plains, and the majority of the Pueblos).
- Chinookan and related languages (several scattered Far Western tribes).
- Siouan and related languages (people in such disparate regions as the Northeast, the Southeast, the Plains, New Mexico, and northern California).
Languages within the six families display linguistic similarities, but in practice they are mutually unintelligible, a fact that reinforces cultural differences. Despite decades of suppression and English assimilation, Native language use may now be on the upswing.5 Thus, the extraordinary cultural variation among historical Indian nations is, and should continue to be, an important distinguishing factor among modern Indian nations.
Finally, the history and politics of place also contribute to distinct cultural identities. As reservations were created, members of several indigenous groups were sometimes assigned to one locality; conversely, members of some large indigenous groups were located on several land bases. Over time, the people of each reservation experienced unique struggles. These historical, geographical, and cultural-linguistic differences together support the proposition that the resident community of each of these 330-plus, unique “nations” is the most appropriate group to undertake policy making and problem solving.
Who Polices Indian Country?
The array of administrative arrangements for policing in Indian Country is complex (*see exhibit 1). Members of the police departments that serve reservation communities may be tribal, Federal, State, county, or municipal employees.
Tribal or Public Law 93–638 Policing
The most common administrative arrangement is for police departments to be organized under the auspices of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. Also known as Public Law 93–638 (PL 93–638), this law gives tribes the opportunity to assume responsibility for many programs previously administered by the Federal Government by contracting with the BIA (Canby 1998, 30–31). Thus, these police departments are administered by tribes under contract with the BIA Division of Law Enforcement Services. Typically, a 638 contract establishes the department’s organizational framework and performance standards and provides basic funding for the police function. Officers and nonsworn staff of 638 contract departments are tribal employees.
Tribes have used the Self-Determination Act quite aggressively to acquire increased control of their police departments. In 1995, for example, 88 departments (nearly half of the non-Public Law 83–280 tribes) were administered under the auspices of PL 93–638. BIA Administration Departments administered by the BIA are the second most common type of police department in Indian Country. Staff in these departments are Federal employees and are part of a national, BIA employed hierarchy of law enforcement officers. For many years, patrol officers were under the line authority of the local BIA superintendent (each reservation has a BIA superintendent who oversees all or most BIA functions on that reservation), and criminal investigators were under the line authority of the BIA Division of Law Enforcement Services. Recent changes have placed line authority for patrol under the BIA Division of Law Enforcement Services as well. In 1995, 64 departments (slightly more than one third of the non-PL 83–280 tribes) were administered by the BIA.
Self-Governance Policing and Tribally Funded Departments
By far less common than the types described above, but significant nevertheless, are departments that receive funding under the auspices of the self-governance amendments to Public Law 93–638 and departments that receive complete funding from tribal coffers.
Like tribes with 638ed police departments, tribes with self-governance arrangements contract (except in this case, the terminology is to “compact”) with the BIA to assume responsibility for law enforcement services that might otherwise be performed by the BIA. The primary difference between contracting under PL 93–638 and compacting under its self-governance amendments is that financing is through a block grant, rather than as payment for budgeted line items. These contractual requirements and funding mechanisms grant tribes much more control over government functions than is permitted under 638 contracts. In 1995, 22 Indian police departments (approximately 12 percent of the non-PL 83–280 tribes) were administered through self-governance.
Although tribes achieve a high degree of organizational freedom through self-governance compacts, tribes that fully fund their own police departments gain near-complete tribal control of their law enforcement institutions. Given resource constraints in Indian Country, however, only four of the non-PL 83–280 tribes had tribe funded departments in 1995.
Public Law 83–280 Policing
A number of tribes rely on State and local authorities for police services under Public Law 83–280, 67 Stat. 588 (1953). This law, passed as part of a larger effort to “terminate” American Indian tribes, gave California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and (later) Alaska the power to enforce the same criminal laws within Indian Country as they did outside of Indian Country. The law also “provided that any other state could assume such jurisdiction by statute or state constitutional amendment,” and many did so (Canby 1998, 27; Barker 1998, 46–49). With the advent of the Federal policy of self-determination in the 1970s, some States retroceded policing responsibility back to tribes. Nonetheless, a significant number of Indian communities still rely on State and local police services, which usually are paid for by the surrounding, and generally larger, non-Indian community.
The number of tribes subject to policing through PL 83–280 is fairly static and relatively large (for example, it includes many of the more than 100 tribes in California). They have excluded them from this study, which focuses on tribes that either police themselves or have a present opportunity to do so. Often, PL 83–280 tribes have rather small populations or limited land bases, characteristics that make self-policing much more difficult. We agree with other researchers, however, that, despite these constraints, PL 83–280 tribes should have an opportunity to determine the policing arrangement that best serves their members (Goldberg and Singleton 1998). The complexity of these issues’ merits separate, comprehensive treatment.
Other Administrative Arrangements
To this already complicated picture, we must add several more possibilities. First, tribes can contract with the BIA for individual police functions. Therefore, some departments will have a tribal patrol function and a BIA criminal investigation function. Second, an increasing number of departments include both tribally employed and BIA employed patrol officers. The Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) program6 is one driving force behind this mix. Its grants provide funding for new local-level officers, who cannot be Federal employees. Thus, tribes that receive COPS grants but have BIA-administered departments have had to hire officers under tribal auspices.
The Typical Department in Indian Country
Despite the complexity of administrative arrangements, it is possible to construct a rough portrait of the typical police department serving Indian Country. This sketch is a step toward developing a general understanding of the context of policing in Indian Country. The data for this portrait comes from the approximately 40 respondents to our survey of the 67 largest tribes (66 largest departments) located in the continental United States.
The typical department is administered either by the tribe through a 638 contract or by the BIA. It has 32 employees (of whom approximately 9 are civilians, 6 are detention officers, 16 are police officers, and 1 to 3 are command staff). Given the around-the-clock nature of policing, the numbers imply that the typical department has only a few officers on duty at any one time. The sworn officers are high school graduates and graduates of certified law enforcement training academies. A slight majority are Native American.
The typical department polices a reservation land area of 500,000 acres and serves approximately 10,000 tribal members. Therefore, the typical setting is a large land area with a relatively small population patrolled by a small number of police officers, and the superficial description is of a rural environment with rural-style policing. In fact, substantial numbers of reservation residents live in fairly dense communities that share attributes of suburban and urban areas. Nonetheless, the figures are roughly equivalent to an area the size of Delaware, but with a population of only 10,000 that is patrolled by no more than three police officers (and as few as one officer) at any one time— a level of police coverage that is much lower than in other urban and rural areas of the country.
The typical department has an operating budget of approximately $1 million per year, which also is less than its rural counterparts and much less than the typical urban police department. In keeping with this limited resource base, the facilities and equipment that support such a department are generally old: The department typically is housed in a building that is 20 or more years old and relies on a vehicle fleet that is at least 3 years old.
The Criminal Justice System in Indian Country
The components of the criminal justice system in Indian Country are similar to those of non-Indian communities throughout the country. The primary components are the judiciary, the prosecutorial and defense bars, the correctional system (including probation), and the police. However, the complex jurisdictional arrangements in Indian Country mean that for nearly every serious crime, the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have potential jurisdiction. This is markedly different from the situation in non-Indian communities: On reservations, Federal agencies play a potentially broad role in the operation of what is essentially a local criminal justice system.
Although the arrangements may vary from reservation to reservation, three factors always come into play in determining criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. These factors tend to narrow tribal jurisdiction and expand either State or Federal jurisdiction over a wide range of crimes:
- Where the crime was committed. Only crimes committed in Indian Country, on trust land, fall under the jurisdiction of tribes. All crimes committed outside of Indian Country, even if they involve American Indians, fall under State or Federal jurisdiction.
- Who committed the crime (Indian or nonIndian). For tribal jurisdiction, the alleged offender must be an American Indian. Sometimes, however, even Indians who are not members of the tribe on whose reservation the crime occurred may be exempt from that tribe’s jurisdiction. Regardless of the nature of the crime or the location in which it occurred, non-Indians are not under the criminal jurisdiction of tribes.
- What crime was committed. As a result of the Major Crimes Act of 1885 (18 U.S.C.A. §1153) and the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (25 U.S.C.A. §1302(7)), tribes have jurisdiction only over less serious crimes. Most serious crimes— including murder, manslaughter, arson, burglary, and robbery—fall under the jurisdiction of Federal authorities. However, some tribes have found ways to exercise increased authority over the investigation and adjudication of more serious crimes.8
Other attributes of the criminal justice system in Indian Country that often are highlighted by experts in the field and are relevant to this discussion include the following:
- Like police departments in Indian Country, other Indian Country criminal justice agencies suffer from major resource constraints (see Odum 1991).
- Indian Country has a greater representation of nonprofessionals in the judiciary and the prosecution and defense bars than non-Indian communities do (see Melton 1998).
- Indian Country has a severe shortage of jail space and correctional treatment programs, particularly with regard to substance abuse (Office of the Inspector General 1996).
4.7 - Other Key Minority Groups and Special Populations
The officer involved shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has highlighted the complex, and sometimes tragic, relationship between law enforcement and youth, particularly youth of color. Negative perceptions of police, sometimes due to aggressive law enforcement in communities of color, have been linked to a number of impacts (short of death) on youth of color, including a willingness to break the law, a mistrust of police, a refusal to cooperate with officers, and alienation in other respects. Enhancing the quantity and quality of positive contacts between youth of color—particularly African American youth—and the police is necessary to foster trust, cooperation, and community engagement. A number of police agencies across the country have developed various school-based and extracurricular initiatives to engage youth and increase positive, non-punitive interactions between law enforcement and young people.
Think About It. . . How would incarcerated youth train police?
Performing Statistics is an ongoing project that connects incarcerated teens, artists, and Virginia’s leading policy experts to transform the juvenile justice system. During the summer of 2015 and 2016, a group of incarcerated teens were able to leave their detention facility, come to a window-filled art space and co-create a multitude of projects about their lives. Follow this link to view their project.
The Hawthorne (California) Police Department’s Teen/Police Dialogue Workshops aim to provide a tangible, positive engagement opportunity between African-American teens and police officers. These workshops provide an opportunity for youth to discuss common questions they have about police procedures, as well as their own rights. In the program, youth are able to first express their questions and concerns about law enforcement by discussing these questions. This forms a foundation for subsequent collaboration.
While many police departments use sports or other physical activities to provide positive outlets for youth, the Seattle Police Department’s Urban Youth Chess Club challenges traditional stereotypes about the interests and capabilities of youth of color who live in urban environments.
Since 2005, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has been engaging elementary school-aged youth with an after-school and weekend chess activity that works to simultaneously develop critical thinking skills in the children and promote positive relationships with law enforcement. This club currently meets twice a week at either a local library or community center.
SPD Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin created this club after attending a First Move program training by the American Foundation for Chess (AF4C). The AF4C engages young minds and teaches critical and creative thinking skills through the game of chess. This program teaches the kids how to apply chess-playing strategies to real-life situations where young people are faced with difficult choices, negative influences, and peer pressure. Detective Bouldin (known in the club as Detective Cookie) uses the chess boards to teach anti-violence behaviors and demonstrate smart decision-making skills.
The Austin (Texas) Police Department partners with the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, and other local youth programs to run a youth mentorship program aimed at engaging young people who live in neighborhoods with the highest incidences of crime. The goal is to improve the youth’s perceptions of police, academic performance, and leadership skills at a young age so that they will be better equipped to make healthy decisions as they get older. The mentorships include teaching leadership and school study skills and building the youth’s appreciation for volunteerism and community building. Program participants have reported improved grade point averages and school attendance after engaging with this mentorship program.
The Anaheim (California) Police Department’s Junior Cadet Program is a weekly after-school program that enables students who are interested in a career in criminal justice or fire safety to learn more about the field, build relationships with current officers, and set career goals. Participation in the program has been shown to boost students’ academic achievement, decrease disciplinary problems at school, and foster positive relationships with local police. In Anaheim, the program is managed by the police department’s community service officers.
Effective anti-gang efforts begin when law enforcement partners with parents, schools, religious institutions, community organizations, businesses, and youth to improve their communities. Local anti-gang coordinating committees bring together a number of criminal justice and community stakeholders to focus on the three components of an anti-gang strategy: prevention, intervention, and suppression.
Collaboration between law enforcement agencies and schools and parents is critical to ensuring the safety of youth. School resource officer (SRO) programs have become an important way for law enforcement to fulfill its duty to protect children on campus and contribute to safer learning environments. Local law enforcement officers’ specialized knowledge of the law, local and national crime trends, and information about public safety threats make them essential contributors to any school’s environmental safety planning, facilities management, and emergency response preparedness.
Selecting the right officer for the SRO position is paramount to the program’s success and to demonstrating a positive image of law enforcement for school-aged youth. When officers have a genuine interest in working with student’s relationships can be formed with the students resulting in mutual trust. SROs are sworn police officers trained to serve and protect the community and schools within their jurisdiction as part of a total community policing strategy. While an SRO’s primary responsibility is safety, an SRO should also take opportunities to present information on public safety topics, such as emergency preparedness, to their school communities. In imparting knowledge to students and staff, an SRO can build a foundation for positive relationships. Informal counseling abilities. Like other caring adults, an SRO can guide youth in making good choices, avoiding destructive behaviors, and navigating life’s circumstances, challenges, and opportunities. SROs should also recognize that they are role models for children and should work to maintain a positive and professional public.
Mistreatment and abuse of the elderly is a major social problem. As expected, with the biology of aging, the elderly sometimes become physically frail. This frailty renders them dependent on others for care—sometimes for small needs like household tasks, and sometimes for assistance with basic functions like eating and toileting. Unlike a child, who also is dependent on another for care, an elder is an adult with a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and opinions—a more fully developed person. This makes the care-providing situation more complex.
Elder abuse occurs when a caretaker intentionally deprives an older person of care or harms the person in his or her charge. Caregivers may be family members, relatives, friends, health professionals, or employees of senior housing or nursing care. The elderly may be subject to many different types of abuse.
In a 2009 study on the topic led by Dr. Ron Acierno, the team of researchers identified five major categories of elder abuse: 1) physical abuse, such as hitting or shaking, 2) sexual abuse, including rape and coerced nudity, 3) psychological or emotional abuse, such as verbal harassment or humiliation, 4) neglect or failure to provide adequate care, and 5) financial abuse or exploitation (Acierno 2010).
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), a division of the U.S. Administration on Aging, also identifies abandonment and self-neglect as types of abuse. Table 13.1 shows some of the signs and symptoms that the NCEA encourages people to notice.
The National Center on Elder Abuse encourages people to watch for these signs of mistreatment:
- Type of Abuse Signs and Symptoms: Physical abuse, Bruises, untreated wounds, sprains, broken glasses, lab findings of medication over dosage.
- Sexual abuse: Bruises around breasts or genitals, torn or bloody underclothing, unexplained venereal disease.
- Emotional/psychological abuse: Being upset or withdrawn, unusual dementia-like behavior (rocking, sucking).
- Neglect: Poor hygiene, untreated bed sores, dehydration, soiled bedding.
- Financial: Sudden changes in banking practices, inclusion of additional names on bank cards, abrupt changes to will.
- Self-neglect: Untreated medical conditions, unclean living area, lack of medical items like dentures or glasses.
How prevalent is elder abuse? Two recent U.S. studies found that roughly one in ten elderly people surveyed had suffered at least one form of elder abuse. Some social researchers believe elder abuse is underreported and that the number may be higher. The risk of abuse also increases in people with health issues such as dementia (Kohn and Verhoek-Oftedahl 2011). Older women were found to be victims of verbal abuse more often than their male counterparts.
In Acierno’s study, which included a sample of 5,777 respondents age sixty and older, 5.2 percent of respondents reported financial abuse, 5.1 percent said they’d been neglected, and 4.6 endured emotional abuse (Acierno 2010). The prevalence of physical and sexual abuse was lower at 1.6 and 0.6 percent, respectively (Acierno 2010).
Other studies have focused on the caregivers to the elderly in an attempt to discover the causes of elder abuse. Researchers identified factors that increased the likelihood of caregivers perpetrating abuse against those in their care. Those factors include inexperience, having other demands such as jobs (for those who weren’t professionally employed as caregivers), caring for children, living full-time with the dependent elder, and experiencing high stress, isolation, and lack of support (Kohn and Verhoek-Oftedahl 2011).
A history of depression in the caregiver was also found to increase the likelihood of elder abuse. Neglect was more likely when care was provided by paid caregivers. Many of the caregivers who physically abused elders were themselves abused—in many cases, when they were children. Family members with some sort of dependency on the elder in their care were more likely to physically abuse that elder. For example, an adult childcaring for an elderly parent while at the same time depending on some form of income from that parent, is considered more likely to perpetrate physical abuse (Kohn and Verhoek-Oftedahl 2011).
A survey in Florida found that 60.1 percent of caregivers reported verbal aggression as a style of conflict resolution. Paid caregivers in nursing homes were at a high risk of becoming abusive if they had low job satisfaction, treated the elderly like children, or felt burnt out (Kohn and Verhoek-Oftedahl 2011). Caregivers who tended to be verbally abusive were found to have had less training, lower education, and higher likelihood of depression or other psychiatric disorders. Based on the results of these studies, many housing facilities for seniors have increased their screening procedures for caregiver applicants.
Mental illness/mentally handicapped23
Police and other law-enforcement officers are frequently the first-line responders to those suffering from a psychiatric crisis. Unfortunately, negative interactions between individuals with mental illness and law enforcement are widely reported and frequently tragic. Mental health training is essential to reduce the number of undesirable outcomes between police and law-enforcement individuals and those suffering from mental illness, with research finding that a lack of training leads to an escalation in violence, and increased rates of injury and death. This offers the potential that with appropriate training of police officers, particularly focusing on better communication and the ability to more easily de-escalate emotions during these interactions that this will reduce the frequency of these negative interactions.
Training police on how best to interact with individuals who may have a mental illness is not new. A recent study looking at Canadian law-enforcement organizations found that entry-level training on mental illness occurs widely and provides a strong groundwork for positive interactions, as well as noting significant increases in crisis intervention training in the last decade in many countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Nonetheless, although training has increased, there continues to be a number of issues that remain. The present review focuses on recommendations for change and includes recent suggestions for both police training and police organizations. Taking all of these into consideration, the current review proposes a focus on specific aspects of training that must be enhanced to improve outcomes, and how this research should best be carried out in collaboration with police forces.
Another major issue in current police training revolves around the assumption that if attitudes toward mental illness can be made more positive then behaviors will change accordingly. Because of this assumption, current training programs focus on changing attitudes through educational means even though their main goal is to change behaviors. In this regard, we must understand the challenge it takes in changing attitudes. Once attitudes, stereotypes, or biases are established, they are extremely difficult to modify. As well, if attitudes are strong, behaviors are increasingly more difficult to change. If the end goal is to improve an officer’s behavior toward individuals with mental illness, a more efficient way is to focus on changing behavior, assuming attitudes will change accordingly. This theory is termed cognitive dissonance or self-justification. When attitudes and behaviors are inconsistent with each other, individuals have beliefs that attitudes, and behaviors should be related and thus aim to diminish tension by shifting their attitudes to match their behaviors. Attitudes only change if officers are unable to justify externally, why they acted in a certain way. For example, if a sergeant was watching, officers justify their actions by telling themselves they acted this way because the sergeant was watching. However, if behaviors are implemented without external justification, then there will be an internal attitude shift linking behaviors to attitudes. For example, officers will believe that the reason they acted this way was because they like acting this way, leading to an attitude change.
Interestingly, although it is difficult to accomplish, some research does show improvements in police attitudes and stigma toward mentally ill individuals and positive behavioral changes after training. However, even if attitudes and behaviors do change post training, there is evidence showing that attitudes do not always predict behaviors and vice versa.
There are four factors that strengthen or weaken the link between attitudes and behavior:
- Specificity: specific attitudes must be compared to specific behaviors, and general attitudes must be compared to general behaviors. If there is a mismatch, then actual attitudes may not be determined. For example, general attitude toward mental illness will not predict behaviors toward depressed individuals.
- Individual differences: some individuals are able to change their behavior according to the situation (high self-monitors), while others act the same in all situations (low self-monitors). Low self-monitors act according to their attitudes. (It has been found that if individual confidence is increased, people can become high self-monitors.
- Attitude strength: the stronger the attitude toward something makes the attitude readily accessible and a greater predictor of behavior. Attitudes can be strengthened through direct or personal experience. As well, the stronger the attitude, the more difficult it is to change the attitude.
- Conformity and obedience: if individuals are forced to behave in accordance with group norms or commanding officer beliefs, it is less likely that behaviors match private attitudes because they may be complying to avoid punishment or gain reward.
Two models that describe this relationship further using psychological processes are the attitude-to-behavior process model and the theory of planned behavior.
The attitude-to-behavior process model explains spontaneous behavior in response to an unexpected situation. It states that more accessible attitudes have instantaneous effects on behavior. Explaining behavior in terms of the specific situations tends to be overlooked and instead behaviors are explained in terms of personality and attitudes, thus attitude–behavioral relationships are made even if they may not exist. Even so, we must not ignore the influence that the specific situation has on behavior.
A third issue with current training programs is the lack of repeated, or refresher, training. While police forces recognize the need for regular and repeated training on a range of areas, this does not seem to apply to the issue of interactions with the mentally ill, where single training activities are the norm. This is despite compelling research regarding memory retention, which suggests a challenge for even the most intelligent students to remember material over time. As an example, medical students forget 25–35% of material in the first year, and more than 50% by the second. Another review suggests that memory is imperfect, and that skills and knowledge decay by 6 months to 1-year post training, with skills deteriorating faster than knowledge.
Other evidence regarding health-related skills and knowledge retention suggest that refresher training should occur at least every 3 years. Additional support for the need for police organizations to implement repeated training in this area is research showing that police retention of knowledge decreases over time. For these reasons, training on mental health awareness needs to be repeated regularly, with current evidence suggesting training must occur every 3 years for all individuals involved in interactions with those who may have a mental illness.
Current recommendations for police training continue to emphasize the importance of training law-enforcement officers to interact more appropriately with individuals suffering from mental illness. The future direction of training for these individuals needs to address the specific factors identified in this review. First, these are the need to accurately measure the outcomes from training. Without this, it is impossible to determine if any training programs are successful. Considering the large sums of money and time it takes to carry out a training program, outcome measures are increasingly important for all police training programs, and this should also apply to those involving training for interacting with mentally ill individuals.
Second, there is a need for training programs to focus on changing behaviors and not simply attitudes, since attitudes, and behaviors may not be strongly correlated. Evidence to date suggests that this can be achieved by focusing on communication, empathy, and de-escalation by engaging officers through scenario-based, hands-on training. Third, it is essential to continuously train officers throughout their careers, and to work to maintain these skills and specific knowledge, preferably by having a training program every 3 years. By continuing the opportunity for officers to increase their mental health awareness, improvements in the relationship between police and mentally ill individuals will continue to progress over time. Officers will then be better equipped to know what to look for, to ask the right questions, and to behave appropriately toward individuals with these conditions, thus increasing the number of positive interactions between these two groups.
There is significant distrust of law enforcement among transgender (often abbreviated “trans”) people because of a history of perceived and actual bias, profiling, and abuse. It is not uncommon for transgender people to fear police; as a result of their own or their community’s experiences of victimization or discrimination at the hands of law enforcement, transgender people are often reluctant to seek police assistance and report crimes. The breakdown of relations between law enforcement and the transgender community has no doubt contributed to increased crime within and victimization experienced by this vulnerable group. Recognizing the critical need to repair these relationships, law enforcement agencies from around the country have been working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights groups and local policymakers to design and implement police policies and patrol guides aimed at protecting the rights and dignity of transgender and gender nonconforming people.
A national survey conducted with nearly 6,500 transgender and gender nonconforming individuals revealed that transgender people—particularly transgender people of color—experienced high rates of harassment and assault when interacting with or seeking police services. Specifically, the survey revealed the following:
- Nearly half of survey respondents (46 percent) reported being reluctant to seek police assistance.
- One-fifth (22 percent) of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police with substantially higher rates (29 to 38 percent) reported by respondents of color.
- Six percent of respondents reported physical attack or assault by a police officer, while 2 percent reported sexual assault by police officers.
At the same time, this survey revealed that trans people are disproportionately victims of crime:
- Eight percent of respondents reported being physically attacked or assaulted in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels, or emergency services. African-American respondents reported much higher rates of physical assault (22 percent) than their non-Black peers.
- Nearly one in five transgender people (19 percent) reported having experienced domestic violence based at least in part on their transgender status, with American Indian (45 percent), Asian (36 percent), Black (35 percent) and Latino/a (35 percent) respondents—as well as undocumented non-citizens (39 percent)—reporting higher rates of domestic violence.
- Individuals who identified as transgender and gender nonconforming in grades K–12 reported significantly high rates of harassment (78 percent), physical assault (35 percent), and sexual violence (12 percent).
- Identify transgender organizations, leaders, and other groups with strong knowledge of and connection to the local trans community. Reach out to discuss community concerns.
- Understand that transgender people are part of the diversity of the community and are themselves diverse in race, age, faith, sexual orientation, and life experience. Variations in gender expression should not be viewed as deviant or criminal. Be aware of misconceptions and stereotypes you might have regarding transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.
- Develop and conduct training together with community members, including mutual cross-cultural training presentations. Invite participation on advisory boards and area hate crimes joint task forces. With the support of community members, attend transgender community events such by making an effort to talk to participants and foster understanding.
Act It Out! “Communicating Across Cultures”
We identified several cross-cultural variables in how people use language. I organized them into the following groups:
- words, syntax, meaning
- tone, volume, rate
- direct/indirect, turn-taking, interruption
- use of silence
Now, we’d like you to choose either group C, D, or E and make some finer distinctions among the variables. (Group A is too difficult unless you are a linguist, and Group B is too simple!). For example:
What does it mean that one way of talking is more direct than another? What are different ways people can interrupt one another and take control of the conversation?
Brainstorm a few examples of what is acceptable/unacceptable content to discuss in different cultures. Are some topics acceptable for only some subgroups to talk about?
Be ready to discuss your findings with the rest of the class.