Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings

By Stephen K. Rice; Michael D. White Roberts | Go to book overview

17

Space, Place, and Immigration
New Directions for Research on Police Stops

Brian J. Stults, Karen F. Parker, and Erin C. Lane

A report from the U.S. Department of Justice on incarceration trends shows that the incarceration rate of blacks is six times the rate of whites (2,209 vs. 366 per 100,000 residents), while Hispanics are twice as likely to be incarcerated as whites (759 vs. 336 per 100,000).1 While researchers offer a number of different perspectives on the high rates of crime and arrests among blacks,2 other scholars consider the cause to stem from law enforcement officers' use of race as a determinant for stopping, searching, or arresting black individuals.3 In light of this research, the study of race, ethnicity, and policing has taken on a more prominent role in criminology. Still, little is known about police stops of Hispanics specifically, and even fewer studies take into account the spatial context of neighborhood boundaries when assessing the relationship between race, ethnicity, and police behavior. The neglect of these two issues persists, though recent research clearly implies the relevance of community to police behavior.4

In this chapter we attempt to make both substantive and methodological contributions to the macro-level study of race, ethnicity, and policing. Our research takes into account two important yet neglected considerations in criminological literature. First, we assess the influence of structural conditions not only on police stops of white and black drivers, but also on police stops of Hispanic drivers in the Miami-Dade area. This is particularly important for a study set in Miami-Dade County, where over 50% of the population is Hispanic, but the inclusion of Hispanics in criminological research is becoming increasingly essential across all regions of the United States. Indeed, the U.S. Census shows that there were eighteen cities with a Hispanic population of more than 50% in the year 2000, ranging from Paterson, NJ, to Laredo, TX, and the Hispanic population continues to grow. Based on a 2005 Census release, the percentage of persons of Hispanic origin reached 14.5% nationally, a 16% increase since the 2000 Census estimates taken just five years earlier, making Hispanics the largest minority group in the United States.5 While research on the relationship between Hispanic immigration and criminal activity is conflicting, if not dominated by myths,6 recent research finds that Hispanics are stopped, frisked, and searched at rates higher than whites.7 Moreover, Hispanics tend to face high levels of concentrated disadvantage in addition to blocked opportunities (such as employment) due

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