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Protest policing by black police officers: double marginality and collateral consequences

Tammy Rinehart Kochel (School of Justice and Public Safety, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 7 July 2020

Issue publication date: 8 August 2020




Drawing from representative bureaucracy theory, hiring minority police officers has been a perpetual reform recommendation for improving tense police-community relationships with minority communities since the 1960s. The expectation is that minority officers will provide active/symbolic representation, but little is known about minority officers' experiences during racially tense situations. This paper examines whether black officers experienced double marginality in the context of prolonged protests against police in Ferguson, MO in 2014 and compares black vs. nonblack officers' self-assessments about their preparedness to handle the crisis, procedural justice during the crisis and mental and emotional effects on officers following protest policing.


In-depth interviews with 45 police personnel who policed the Ferguson protests provide a rich description of the context and experiences through the lens of police officers. Surveys of 218 officers who conducted protest policing in Ferguson are used to compare the impact on black vs. non-black officers.


The results provide a detailed portrayal of the double marginality experienced by black officers while policing the Ferguson protests, but also demonstrate that black officers were resilient to the effects of that experience, showing significantly more favorable outcomes than their nonblack peers.


This is the only study to utilize a mixed methods approach with police officers who conducted protest policing to understand officers' experiences in the midst of a racially inflamed context. The findings provide support for policymakers interested in advocating and supporting hiring more minorities in policing.



This research was funded by the Charles Koch Foundation.


Kochel, T.R. (2020), "Protest policing by black police officers: double marginality and collateral consequences", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 43 No. 4, pp. 659-673.



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