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Why racialized youth perceptions of police matter

30th October 2019

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Kanika Samuels-Wortley, scholar at the University of Waterloo, reveals stories of police violence and prejudice towards Indigenous and Black populations, and explains why understanding these experiences is critical for justice and equity. This is the third in the Narration as Regulation series by the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), ANU.

by Kanika Samuels-Wortley

A number of U.S., British, and Australian studies have established that racialized populations, particularly Indigenous and Black, consistently show more negative attitudes towards police and the broader criminal justice system compared to their White counterparts. This is problematic as numerous policing scholars argue that effective law enforcement is contingent on public support. Civilians who are not satisfied with and/or harbour unfavourable perceptions of the police are less likely to report criminal activity or cooperate with police investigations. Furthermore, some research suggests that people who view the police as “illegitimate” are less likely to comply with the law.

But, why the racial difference? Especially, in light of the fact that police organizations often maintain that they treat all persons with respect, equity and dignity (for example, see statement by Toronto, Canada police). The answer to this may be found in the lived experiences of racialized youth. Studies that examine perceptions of police tend to focus on adult populations, despite evidence that suggests trust and confidence in the police is very low among youth, particularly among Black and Indigenous peoples. Thus, the focus of the current research is to have a more nuanced understanding of racialized communities, but from a Canadian perspective. Exploring race within the Canadian context is particularly important as Canada is often recognized as the pillar of multiculturalism.

However, this sentiment is greatly due to the fact that many social institutions (including criminal justice institutions) are not required to collect any race-based data. Thus, in Canada we lack significant data to support the notion that racialized communities are disenfranchised in Canadian society.

Read the full blog post on The Power to Persuade.

Image: by Joybot, Flikcr, under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet