Minority Trust and Confidence in the Police: Findings From a Study of New Yorkers

Tom Tyler, New York University

It is a truism that minority group members have lower trust and confidence in the police than do Whites. Despite widespread recognition of this reality, however, there is not a clear explanation for why it is true, nor is there a consensus concerning the implications of this finding. Using the results of a survey of the residents of New York two models of trust and confidence are examined within the White and minority communities. One model links trust and confidence to police effectiveness in controlling crime. The other model links trust and confidence to issues of justice in police behavior. Findings support both models, but suggest that the primary issue in evaluating the police is an assessment of their fairness. This is true among both White and minority respondents. These findings suggest that the police can best build and maintain public trust and confidence by focusing on how they treat members of the public.

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Updated 05/20/2006