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Op/ed: Addressing a Police-Community Divide

UMD Researchers' Survey Finds Breakdown Between Cops and Black and Latino Men Complicates Responses to Violence

By Rod K. Brunson and Diomand A. Henry

Lights flash on police car

A survey showed a wide gulf between young African American and Latino men from New York and police—a divide that must be bridged before society can address problems of violence, University of Maryland researchers said in a newspaper op/ed.

Photo by iStock

A survey of 100 young Black and Latino New Yorkers didn’t paint a pretty picture of police-community relations—results that UMD researchers said must be taken to heart if society is to ever bridge this divide to enhance public safety.

In an op/ed in The New York Daily News, criminology and criminal justice Professor Rod K. Brunson and his Ph.D. student, Diomand A. Henry, outlined their findings from working with a group in which about 75% had been casualties of gun violence, and suggested a way forward based on investments in communities and broad engagement.

What we learned from talking to these young people is that there is a deep disconnect between them and the NYPD. More than 90% of our participants said that they would not summon police if they or a loved one were threatened with gun violence.

This vote of no confidence does not come out of nowhere.

One young man, Curtis (not his real name), expressed the sentiments of many when he said, “police [have] threatened me with guns more than anyone else has ever, so I’m not comfortable with police at all.” Maurice was incensed about NYPD’s failure to address local youth violence, saying that the police “don’t do enough to protect the kids out here.”

Crucially, participants in the study said that their mistrust of police stemmed from concerns about both over- and under-policing. Their dissatisfaction with police performance, especially when it came to holding violent offenders accountable, pushed them toward self-defense strategies, including arming themselves for possible retaliation, instead of cooperating with police.

Notwithstanding New York City’s strict gun laws, the resounding refrain from respondents was this: “I’d rather be caught with it than without it.”

Read the rest in The New York Daily News.



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