Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Marcelo Castro

Committee Member

Kendra Gentry

Committee Member

Brenda Deans


African-American perceptions, African American studies, civilian confidence, criminology, law enforcement, procedural justice, racial mirror index, racial representativeness


This dissertation explores the prediction that when African-Americans are underrepresented among sworn officers in a community’s local law enforcement agencies compared to the African-American proportions in that community’s overall population, African-American civilians’ confidence in their local law enforcement agencies may suffer, leading to impaired respect for law, reduced civilian cooperation with law enforcement, and civilian impressions of weakened procedural justice and fairness. With low civilian confidence, the argument goes, one could expect an enhanced sense of disenfranchisement among the underrepresented sub-populations.

The purpose of this study is to consider the impact of underrepresentation of African-Americans among sworn officers serving a local community, explore the key correlates of civilian confidence viewed through the lens of African-American perceptions and attitudes, and confront the superordinate roles that procedural justice and police effectiveness play in forming African-American civilian attitudes of confidence, trust, and satisfaction in local law enforcement.

To quantify representativeness, this study expresses relative racial compositions of the police and the policed as a Racial Mirror Index (“RMI”). If the percent of a community’s police, who are African-American, exactly matches the percent of the policed in that community, who are African-American, the RMI-AA (“Racial Mirror Index-African-American”) would equal 100. RMI-AAs over 100 indicate African-Americans are overrepresented on the local law enforcement agency compared to the African-American share of the general population; RMI-AAs under 100 indicate African-Americans are underrepresented among sworn officers on t force.

Despite expectations, as this study makes clear, RMI-AA is not a significant predictor of African-American civilian confidence, trust, and satisfaction in local law enforcement. Instead, African-American attitudes about local law enforcement are overwhelmingly driven by African-American perceptions of procedural justice and police effectiveness. African-American confidence, trust, and satisfaction in law enforcement remains far lower than for Whites regardless of RMI-AA and the degree of underrepresentation on the force. Thus, law enforcement agencies cannot hire their way out of this confidence gap through minority recruitment. Instead, improving African-American confidence in local law enforcement will require the agencies to engage with the far more substantive work of ensuring their officers deliver both procedural justice and effective policing.

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