An Examination of Citizen Perceptions of Differential Treatment by the Police in Los Angeles, California

Justin T. Ready, Police Foundation
David L. Weisburd, Hebrew University/University of Maryland
E. Earl Hamilton, Police Foundation
Sandra Bass, University of Maryland at College Park

This paper examines citizen perceptions of differential treatment by the police in Los Angeles, California. We present findings from a study of citizen contacts with the police in Los Angeles conducted by the Police Foundation. To disentangle the effects of race, personal encounters with the police, and neighborhood context, we surveyed a stratified sample of 1,200 households from three distinct types of areas: census block groups containing mostly (more than 80%) black households, block groups containing mostly Hispanic households, and block groups containing mostly white households. The survey instrument was designed to collect information about the frequency and nature of citizen contacts with police, including both citizen and police initiated contact. Respondents were asked questions measuring their perceptions of whether police services are applied differentially to individuals and neighborhoods depending on race and wealth. Survey questions also examined views of police effectiveness in general. The survey did not ask respondents about their personal involvement in crime and victimization. The findings presented here focus on individual and neighborhood predictors of views of differential treatment.

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Updated 05/20/2006