Neighborhood Cohesion and Racism-Related Stress Affect Black Adult Caregivers’ Perceptions of the Police

Neighborhood cohesion and procedural justice in policing among Black adults: The moderating role of cultural race‐related stress
Camille R. Quinn, Elan C. Hope, Qiana R. Cryer-Coupet
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Research only recently began to explore experiences that shape communities’ perceptions of police (PDF), but in the wake of the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade, and others, the topic has been thrust into the national conversation.  Adding to the emerging body of research, this study investigated how neighborhood cohesion (trust and feelings of belonging among community members) and stress from cultural racism influence Black adults’ perceptions of procedural justice (perceived fairness of policy conduct). Specifically, the authors explored how neighborhood cohesion and beliefs about procedural justice differed among adult Black caregivers based on prior contact with police.

The study recruited participants through the Black Families Project, a nationwide survey designed to understand the psychological, physical, economic, and political health of Black adolescents and their primary caregivers. The sample included 604 self-identified Black caregivers of adolescent children ages 14 to 17. Eighty-five percent identified as female, 74 percent as African American, 15 percent as African, 6 percent as Caribbean/West Indian, and 5 percent as multiethnic. Participants lived in 37 states and the District of Columbia, and a majority (56 percent) were from the South. Forty percent of caregivers had a four-year college degree or higher, 64 percent reported being employed, and the average reported annual income ranged from $45,000 to $54,999. Participants responded to a questionnaire that asked about the culture of policing in their neighborhoods, their experiences being stopped by the police, feelings of belonging and trust in their neighborhood, experiences with racism, and more.

Researchers analyzed the responses, controlling for age, gender, income, past police stops, and past arrests.  They found that a stronger sense of neighborhood cohesion is associated with stronger perceptions of procedural justice and that this relationship is moderated by incidences of cultural racism-related stress.

Key findings
  • Seventy-two percent of participants reported having been stopped by the police, and 28 percent reported having been arrested.
  • Having been stopped did not affect participants’ perception of neighborhood cohesion, but having been arrested was associated with a negative perception of neighborhood cohesion.
  • Participants who had been stopped and arrested had less positive perceptions of procedural justice in policing than their counterparts who were not stopped or arrested.
  • Participants who experienced more stress from cultural racism (such as from negative portrayals of Black victims of crimes in the news) had more negative perceptions of procedural justice in policing in their communities.
  • For participants who experienced above-average stress from cultural racism, positive neighborhood cohesion was related to greater global perceptions of procedural justice in policing.
Implications for research
  • More research is needed to better understand individual, relational, communal, and societal factors, including environmental and structural factors, and how they relate to police presence and quality of interactions with communities and Black residents.
  • This research focused on the caregivers, but more research is needed on young Black people’s experiences with the police and how those interactions affect their views of neighborhood cohesion and cultural racism.

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