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Perceptions of the police: Past findings, methodological issues, conceptual issues and policy implications

Ben Brown (Criminal Justice Department, The University of Texas at Brownsville, Brownsville, Texas, USA,)
Wm Reed Benedict (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 September 2002


This research updates and expands upon Decker’s article “Citizen attitudes toward the police: a review of past findings and suggestions for future policy” by summarizing the findings from more than 100 articles on perceptions of and attitudes toward the police. Initially, the value of research on attitudes toward the police is discussed. Then the research pertaining to the impact of individual level variables (e.g. race) and contextual level variables (e.g. neighborhood) on perceptions of the police is reviewed. Studies of juveniles’ attitudes toward the police, perceptions of police policies and practices, methodological issues and conceptual issues are also discussed. This review of the literature indicates that only four variables (age, contact with police, neighborhood, and race) have consistently been proven to affect attitudes toward the police. However, there are interactive effects between these and other variables which are not yet understood; a finding which indicates that theoretical generalizations about attitudes toward police should be made with caution.



Brown, B. and Reed Benedict, W. (2002), "Perceptions of the police: Past findings, methodological issues, conceptual issues and policy implications", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 543-580.




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