Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Social Distance between Minority Youth and the Police: An Exploratory Analysis of the TAPS Academy

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Social Distance between Minority Youth and the Police: An Exploratory Analysis of the TAPS Academy

Article excerpt

Ohio Dominican University, Columbus, Ohio

Introduction

There is an extensive literature on public attitudes toward the criminal justice system, perceptions of the police, and police legitimacy (Cochran & Warren, 2012; Reitzel & Piquero, 2006; Leiber, Nalla, & Farnworth, 1998; Roberts & Stalans, 1997; Frank, Brandi, Cullen, and Stichman, 1996; Worrall, 1999). Much of the research has focused on adults and non-minority populations (Weitzer & Brunson, 2009). The research that has focused on youth and minority populations reveal that youth are more likely than adults to have confrontational encounters with police, and that minority youth are more likely than non-minority youth to have negative experiences with the police (Cochran & Warren, 2012; Hurst & Frank, 2000; Weitzer & Brunson, 2009). These experiences often stem from minority populations experiencing differential treatment (i.e., increased racial profiling, disparate treatment, and institutionalized racism) as a result of racial discrimination. Unfortunately, the cumulative effects of these negative experiences lead youth, particularly minority youth, to have more negative opinions of the police, question police legitimacy, and have a more critical view of the fairness of police organizations (Leiber et. al, 1998; Smith & Holmes, 2003; Taylor, Turner, Esbensen, & Winfree, 2001; Engel, 2005).

In order to address negative opinions, issues of police legitimacy, and questions of fairness, community policing has been adopted by many law enforcement agencies to proactively improve police/citizen relations and address issues of community crime (Bureau of Justice Assistance [BJA], 1994; Black & Kari, 2010). Through strategic planning, community policing fosters systematic partnerships with community organizations and individuals to increase trust and respect for the police (BJA, 1994). These partnerships are often facilitated through mentoring programs that address strained relationships between minority youth and the police. Although there is a need for more research on the effects of police as mentors, the existing research has found using police as mentors has proven effective at improving minority youths' respect and trust for police officers (Arter, 2006; Lumpkin & Penn, 2013). Such research has set the framework for the current study, which is an evaluation of the TAPS Academy's effectiveness on reducing social distance between police and minority youth. In an attempt to improve the relationship between at-risk minority youth and the police, the TAPS Academy was created. The purpose of the Academy serves to reduce social distance between police and at-risk youth.

Social distance between minority youth and the police has been explored in the literature (Braithwaite, 2003; Braithwaite, 2010; Murphy & Cherney, 2012). Murphy & Cherney (2012) referred to social distance as "the degree to which individuals or groups have positive feelings for other individuals, institutions, or their legal systems" (p. 184). Social distance is used to examine the social bonds between individuals in positions of authority and those they govern. Research has indicated there are several ways individuals tend to position themselves around those in authority, and this strategic arranging is known as motivational posturing (Murphy & Cherney, 2012). Motivational posturing includes commitment, resistance, and disengagement. Committed individuals place the least social distance between themselves and authority figures. Resistant individuals place a moderate amount of social distance between themselves and authority figures. Disengaged individuals completely refrain from interacting with authority figures (Murphy & Cherney, 2012).

Murphy & Cherney (2012) adopted the concept of social distance and used it within a policing context to examine police/adult relationships. Expanding on Murphy & Cherney's (2012) use of social distance, our study focuses on social distance within a policing context to examine relationships between police and minority youth. …

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