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Police Disrespect Toward the Public: An Encounter-Based Analysis

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 40 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2002 Pages: 519-552
Stephen D. Mastrofski; Michael D. Reisig; John D. McCluskey
Date Published
August 2002
34 pages

This article discusses police disrespect towards the public in Indianapolis, Indiana and St. Petersburg, Florida.


Examining three areas of influence that lead to police disrespect towards the public in Indianapolis, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida, this article describes the location of encounters, how suspects behaved toward the police, and personal characteristics of suspects. After discussing interrelated literature concerning police disrespect, the ways that citizen’s present themselves to the police, citizens’ social positions, and how citizens encounter the police, the authors propose that it is citizens who initiate disrespect towards police officers who are more likely to be treated disrespectfully in return. In order to test this theory, as well as other ideas, the authors collected data in Indianapolis and St. Petersburg between 1996 and 1997. The Project on Policing Neighborhoods (POPN) focused on officers assigned to 12 beats in each city. Multivariate analysis and logistic regression equations of various variables to ascertain disrespectful speech and gestures of police encounters with 3,130 suspects showed that a suspect’s behavior was the most powerful predictor of police behavior toward him or her. The sex, age, income, and degree of neighborhood disadvantage of suspects were also useful predictors of police reaction toward suspects. Tables, references