Race and policing: Chinese immigrants'/Americans' perceptions of the police

by Wu, Yuning, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE, 2009, 269 pages; 3360271


Race/ethnicity has been found as one of the most salient factors in predicting public satisfaction with the police. Very little, however, is known about Asian Americans’ experience with and attitudes toward the police. This study is designed to fill this void. Targeting the largest Asian group in the U.S., this study comprehensively examines Chinese immigrants’/Americans’ perceptions of the police. An integrated theoretical model that takes into account three dimensions of predictors, individual characteristics, experiences with crime and criminal justice, and structural context, is proposed and tested.

This study specifically addresses four main questions: (1) how do Chinese immigrants perceive the police; (2) do Chinese immigrants hold distinctive views of the police from those of White, Black, and Hispanic Americans; (3) what factors are especially salient in explaining Chinese immigrants’ perceptions of the police; and (4) what are the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of recent police contacts among Chinese immigrants? Using convenience and snowball sampling strategies, survey data were collected from over 500 Chinese immigrants who lived in four cities in the East Coast: Newark and Hockessin/Wilmington, DE, Philadelphia, PA, and New York City, NY.

Results from this study indicated that the majority of Chinese immigrants, just like other racial groups, had overall positive views of the police. Specifically, they thought highly of police demeanor, integrity, and effectiveness, but less positively of police fairness. Comparatively, the level of Chinese immigrants’ global satisfaction with local police lay at about the middle point of the attitudinal ladder that featured Whites on the top and Blacks on the bottom, which supported the racial hierarchy perspective. The effects of some predictors, such as recent police contact, media exposure to police misconduct, neighborhood conditions and city effects, were especially remarkable. In addition, it was found that for Chinese immigrants, their satisfaction with local police was to a substantial degree intertwined with their experience with and perceptions of the U.S. immigration authorities. Future research should collect loosely-structured, in-depth interview data to enrich survey data and examine the potential interactive effects between different domains of predictors of public perceptions of the police.

Future research should also recruit more undocumented immigrants. Through community policing initiatives, local police departments should approach Chinese immigrants proactively and learn about their needs and expectations about the police. Police need to commit themselves to promoting the sense of fairness and equality among Chinese immigrants. Cultivating good relationships with public media and actively participating in community building are also critical in enhancing police-Asian community relations.

AdviserIvan Y. Sun
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsCriminology; Ethnic studies
Publication Number3360271

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