Publication Date

2009

Degree Name

MA in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations

First Advisor

Claire Halverson

Abstract

This paper examines young people experiences with and perceptions of the police in Worcester, MA by interviewing youth workers who have contact with significant numbers of young people in the city. In one-on-one semi-structured interviews, their observations, experiences and thoughts about youth-police relations in the city are explored. Since the work is grounded in a conceptual framework based on a critical analysis of the political, social and economic context, the work is forced to move past a mere description of the situation to a thoughtful inquiry into what can and should change and how that change can occur.

The information from the youth workers suggests that a significant number of young people in the city have negative experiences with and perceptions of the police. These experiences fall along a continuum, but can best be described using Fine et al.’s (2003) conception of “micro-agressions.” These micro-aggressions are not without consequences for youth. A range of effects are associated with these experiences including youth avoiding and/or distrusting the police, feeling angry and/or frustrated, developing a fear and/or hostility toward the police and internalizing a sense of powerlessness. Young people’s perceptions are based not only on their own experiences but also on the experiences of others in their community.

A variety of possible solutions to improve youth-police relations are discussed based on youth workers suggestions. Some solutions are aimed specifically at changing police practices and behaviors. In addition, solutions focused on the wider community are discussed. Finally, recommendations for future research and action are addressed, most importantly, the need to continue to involve young people in both the discussion about these issues as well as any community activities aimed to address them.

Disciplines

Civic and Community Engagement | Criminology

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