Performance Objectives:

  • Participants will be able to define culture and subculture and its impact on human interaction during law enforcement-citizen contacts.
  • After viewing a series of short vignettes, the participants will be able to list the beliefs, patterns of thinking and behaviors that contribute to police officer and citizen perceptions before, during and after a police-citizen contact.
  • Participants will describe the effect that negatively perceived law enforcement-citizen encounters have on the police officer and the citizen.

I. Cultural Effects Upon Policing

A. Culture comprises the beliefs, values, and patterns of thinking, behavior and everyday customs that have passed on from generation to generation. It helps define what normal behavior is, or what is right and wrong in a person's mind, and their view of the consequences of violating laws.
B. Law Enforcement Subculture.
  1. All police officers, while greatly influenced by the beliefs, values, customs and behaviors of their larger culture, also share many distinct values, beliefs and customs of the law enforcement culture.
  2. Among the many goals of law enforcement, controlling crime and maintaining an acceptable quality of life within a given community are primary. Enforcing society's laws attains these goals.
  3. The authorization of law enforcement to make arrests and use force and other controlling techniques to manage society's behavior is the single most important factor that separates police officers from the rest of society.
C. Cultures can affect the way police view citizens and vice versa. These effects are often influenced by beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that can negatively impact the process of building understanding between the two groups. These cultural barriers are:
  1. Prejudice:A judgment or opinion formed before facts are known, usually involving negative or unfavorable thoughts about groups of people.
  2. Discrimination:Actions based on prejudiced thoughts and unjustifiable behavior towards a racial or ethnic group and its members. It expresses itself in distinctions and decisions made on the basis of prejudice.
  3. Racism:A belief that inherent differences among the races determine individual or group achievement, often involving the idea that one's own race is superior.

II. The Emotional Effect on People Who are Stopped by Police

  1. For many police officers it is hard to understand the emotional impact on people who are stopped. To assist we present citizens describing these circumstances in their own words.
  2. These effects can be magnified for people of color, those from cultures where police are mortally feared, and for those who do not understand what is happening.
  3. We will provide excerpts from the police/community workshop to drive home the message that stopping people of color has a strong impact on the perception of police and thus their ability to get cooperation and information from the community. Typically, in the police/community workshop,citizens talk about how they want to be treated by the police, how they are treated and the emotional impact this has on them. For some police officers, this is a view into the emotions of citizens that they often do not get. For others, it is not convincing because they know that the people they stop are breaking traffic laws and deserve to be stopped. However, the training will emphasize that police officers have great latitude in deciding whom to stop in the context of traffic and they must be alert to the reasons they picked that particular motorist to stop. Police officers should be aware of the power of unconscious or implicit bias based on race to affect their decisions.

III. The Perceptions of Police During the Stop (From the Police/Community Workshop)

Typically, police talk about how they would like to be treated during a stop, how they are treated and why they behave the way they do during the stop. Interestingly, we often find that police and citizens want the same things-respect, not being stereotyped and understanding of their situation. These similarities are helpful in bridge building between the two groups.

Downloadable Reference Materials

  1. Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain - Scientific American pdf format of buried_prejudice.pdf
  2. Seeing Black: Race, Crime, and Visual Processing - Journal of Personality & Social Psychology pdf format of eberhardt_seeing_black.pdf
  3. The Police Officer's Dilemma - Journal of Personality & Social Psychology pdf format of police_officers_dilemma.pdf

Training Videos for this Module

YouTube image Module 3 - Part 1 Module 3 - Part 2