Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis & Resolution

Department

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Dustin Berna

Second Advisor

Jason Campbell

Third Advisor

Judith McKay

Abstract

This study explores the relationship between Black police officers, Black citizens, and their external environment using a group of 30 police officers and citizens to establish the connection between police officer race and perceptions by same race citizens within the context of police use of force. I use the term Black to be inclusive of African Americans as well as others of African descent without regard to their ethnicity or national origin. Criminal justice means system application whereas criminology is the study of criminal behavior. In America, there exists a history of volatility between the police and Black communities. While I recognize that many Blacks may have no direct interaction with police, in order to facilitate this research, I rely on a well-known and controversial topic, which is the use of police force within Black communities. The participants involved in the study are employees of one of three large municipal police agencies or enrolled in an institution of higher education within a southwestern state. All participants self-identify as Black or African American. I employ qualitative methods by incorporating in-depth interviews in my research approach. At the conclusion of the study, the two groups’ perception about race, police use of force, and policing are compared, using common themes to develop a shared phenomenon of what it means to be a Black police officer and the Black officer’s relationship with the Black community. I suggest that because Black police officers experience a racial/professional dynamic; their twin identification causes them to believe that the Black community and non-Black officers question their racial and professional loyalty. I also suggest that the perception of Black police officers and Black citizens and the degree of support they enjoy or lack within their respective departments and communities affects their disposition regarding race and policing. Typically, researchers treat police as a homogenous racial group. This study is important because Black officers are neglected within the literature on police use of force and Black citizens are seldom asked about citizen-police relations involving Black officers. In addition, this project examines how the roles of professional and racial subcultures influence perceptions.