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Race, Ethnicity, and Perceived Minority Police Presence: Examining Perceptions of Criminal Injustice Among Los Angeles Residents

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2024


Although the conventional wisdom holds that increasing the number of minority officers will enhance residents' perceptions of police and the criminal justice system, further systematic investigation of this hypothesis may be needed. Building on the group-position thesis, the representative bureaucracy theory, and prior research, this study investigates whether perceived minority police presence within residents' neighborhoods affects residents' perceptions of criminal injustice, whether this effect is more pronounced for minority residents and in minority neighborhoods, and whether perceived minority police presence has a stronger effect on perceptions of criminal injustice for minority residents in more integrated and white neighborhoods than minority residents in minority neighborhoods. Analyses of data collected from Los Angeles, CA, show that residents perceive a lower level of criminal injustice when they report that officers in their neighborhoods are not white-dominated, and this finding is not dependent on the respondent's race/ethnicity or the racial/ethnic composition of the neighborhood. In addition, perceived minority police presence seems to have a weak to no effect on residents' perceptions of criminal injustice for Hispanic communities. We discuss these findings and their implications for theory, research, and policy.

© 2019 Law and Society Association.

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We want to especially thank Daniel Mears for his feedback on the previous draft. We also want to thank Scott Decker, Robert Kane, Mike Reisig, and Eric Stewart for their helpful comments and suggestions and Natalie Todak for her research assistance. We extend special thanks to Hubert Williams, the Police Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation for supporting the data collection. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Police Foundation and the Bradley Foundation. Furthermore, we are very grateful to the Editors and anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and insights.


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Supplementary material: File

Appendix A. Population and Sample Characteristics Appendix B. Bivariate Correlations among Study Variables Appendix C. Descriptive Statistics across Five Types of Ethno-Racial Neighborhoods
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