A Comparison of Citizen Perceptions of Unfair Treatment by the Police in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Justin T. Ready, Police Foundation

This paper compares citizen perceptions of unfair treatment by the police in Los Angeles, California, and Washington, DC. We present findings from two related studies of citizen contacts with the police in the Los Angeles and Washington, DC. metropolitan areas. To measure the effects of region, personal encounters with the police, neighborhood context, race and other personal attributes, researchers interviewed a stratified sample of 1,300 households from each of the two study sites. The sampling and survey methodologies were consistent across sites. Three distinct types of areas were examined: 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 was designed to gather information about the frequency and nature of citizen contacts with police, including both citizen and police initiated contacts. Respondents were also asked questions measuring their perceptions of whether police services are applied differentially to individuals and neighborhoods depending on race and other extralegal factors. Building on earlier survey findings from the Los Angeles study site, we use a multilevel analysis to examine individual and neighborhood factors that predict perceptions of unfair treatment.

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Updated 05/20/2006