U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Juvenile Attitudes Towards the Police: The Importance of Subcultural Involvement and Community Ties

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 37 Issue: 5 Dated: September-October 2009 Pages: 488-495
Date Published
October 2009
8 pages

This study examined attitudes toward police among sixth-grade to ninth-grade youths in a large, multisite study.


The study found that youths who had been stopped and questioned by police, who reported victimization experiences to police, or who had an officer as an instructor in a primary prevention program reported attitudes toward the police similar to those youths who had never been in contact with police in any of these situations. Youths who had been arrested, however, had significantly less favorable attitudes toward police than youths who had not been arrested or had or other types of contact with police. These findings remained strong and consistent even after the effects of demographic characteristics, behavioral characteristics, commitment to delinquent peers, pro-delinquent attitudes, and perceptions of the community were taken into account. Greater commitment to delinquent peers and holding more pro-delinquent attitudes were linked with more negative perceptions of the police. Greater involvement in less serious forms of delinquency was independently related to less favorable attitudes toward police, while involvement in more serious forms of delinquency exerted no independent influence on youths' perceptions of police when demographic and community factors were controlled. The study found no significant relationship between perceptions of community disorder or individual perceptions of risk of criminal victimization and attitudes toward the police. The findings suggest that increased levels of fear of crime were associated with more favorable perceptions of police. White youths held more favorable attitudes toward the police than Black or Hispanic youths. Also, younger youths held more favorable attitudes toward the police than older youths. Study data were collected as part of the National Evaluation of the Teens, Crime, and the Community/Community Works program, a school-based, law-related education program. A total of 1,686 students participated in the study. 2 tables, 16 notes, and 50 references

Date Published: October 1, 2009