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4.7: Other Key Minority Groups and Special Populations

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    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 handicapped

    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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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).

    Police officers working to build relationships with the transgender community can consider

    • 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:

    1. words, syntax, meaning
    2. tone, volume, rate
    3. direct/indirect, turn-taking, interruption
    4. content
    5. 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:

    Group C:

    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?

    Group D:

    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?

    Group E:

    Be ready to discuss your findings with the rest of the class.

    4.7: Other Key Minority Groups and Special Populations is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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