Talking Justice: Identifying Interactional Practices to Improve the Quality of Police-Civilian Encounters

What kinds of interactions between police and youth can build trust, encourage civilian cooperation, and reduce the use of force by officers?

This study examines the emergence and management of trust and/or mistrust in encounters between police officers and youth and young adults. Jones and Raymond will examine how intersections of race, age, and gender, shape the trajectories of police/youth encounters as they unfold in real time. The team will identify a set of practices that officers can use when they encounter youth to increase trust, reduce the likelihood of violence, and strengthen perceptions of police legitimacy. They anticipate that improved police and civilian encounters will reduce the likelihood that youth of color will be arrested for minor crimes, such as loitering. They also expect that youth in high surveillance areas may have better mental health, as they will witness fewer aggressive police encounters, which have been found to traumatize bystander witnesses. In prior work, Jones used video recordings collected with law enforcement agencies to examine how officers respond when civilians ask questions or make complaints challenging the officer’s agenda. In this project, team will examine three collections of video recorded encounters: two were collected in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, either on police car dashboard cameras or during police ride-alongs with researchers, who also conducted ethnographic interviews. The third was collected by a civilian videographer. The team will analyze the ethnographic interviews for how officers evaluate the trustworthiness of civilians, and will use the civilian video data to focus on civilian complaints and how police officers respond.

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