Perceptions of Law Enforcement and Civilian Interactions as a Function of Race and Gender
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SubjectRacial profiling in law enforcement--United States; Discrimination in law enforcement; Police misconduct
Based on current events, we wanted to investigate how people perceive law enforcement officer and civilian interactions. There have been several cases of public outrage accusing the legal system of being unjust, due to racial prejudices. We were particularly interested in how the gender and race of the law enforcement officer and the civilian would impact people’s perceptions when reading about an altercation. In our study, we created a scenario involving an ambiguous altercation between a law enforcement officer and a civilian, which resulted in the civilian being shot. We altered the gender (male, female) and the race (black, white) of the law enforcement officer and the civilian, resulting in a 2x2x2x2 factorial design. After participants read one of the sixteen possible scenarios, we assessed the amount of blame placed on the law enforcement officer and civilian. Our study suggests that there is greater blame placed on officers than civilians when the officer is white and the civilian is black. Our findings also suggest that female law enforcement officers are seen as making justified decisions.
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