Madeleine Novich
2016 unpublished
This study investigated perceptions of procedural justice and concepts of police legitimacy among San Francisco-based male and female minority gang members involved in drug dealing. This study sought to examine how the gang members experienced and articulated Tyler's (2006) four facets of procedural justice: trust, respect, fairness, and participation and how these perceptions contributed to opinions about police legitimacy more generally. To investigate the research participants' perceptions,
more » ... ants' perceptions, the study sought to answer the following questions: First, are the police perceived as engaging with gang members based on prejudicial behavior (e.g. being stopped because of race, gender, age, clothing and/or location)? If so, how do these perceived police behaviors shape perceptions of procedural justice among male and female gang members? Further, how are perceptions of procedural justice impacted by the context during which participants are approached (i.e. actively engaged in law-breaking behavior or not)? And finally, how are police contacts and perceptions similar or different across genders? This study utilized secondary data, which consisted of 253 in-depth qualitative interviews. The semi-structured interviews of male (N=119) and female (N=134) gang members covered salient topics that included descriptions of police behavior during involuntary face-to-face contacts, vicarious experiences, and attitudes about law enforcement. Overall, the results indicate that ethnic minority drug dealing gang members experience what they perceive to be procedurally unjust police behavior. Indeed, the research participants repeatedly raised concerns related to their perceptions of procedural justice on all four criteria (fairness, trust, respect, and participation) (Tyler, 2006) and concerning police legitimacy. Specific issues raised included a lack of respectful interpersonal treatment, citizen participation met with police indifference and perceptions of unfair and biased decision-making based on race, gender, neighborhood context, and dress. Further, the context of the stop was critical in forming or harming perceptions of trust. This contributed to study participants' opinions about the legitimacy of the police. While there were some notable gender differences in experiences and responses, and some suggestion that the race/ethnicity of gang members might matter as well, there were also a number of shared experiences suggesting that men and women of different ethnicities also experience and interpret police behavior in similar ways. This study affirmed that attitudes towards law enforcement, interpretations of police behavior, and legitimacy are best examined in an intersectional framework based on the dynamic exchange between police and citizen. As such, this investigation contributes to our understanding of how gender, race, presentation of self, neighborhood context, criminal involvement, along with the type and nature of the stop, converge to reveal how attitudes towards police are formed and perceptions of procedural justice are articulated among this criminally-involved population. iii Acknowledgements