Silicon Valley Notebook


Pamela M. Low


While the ideal model of policing includes community collaboration to define and provide safety, the reality of the relationship is strained due to the distinct divide in community-police social boundaries. The gendered impacts of police militarization, community-police familiarity, and race heterogamy on community trust in the local police force were assessed, using a sequential mixed methods approach. The 2011 national “Police-Public Contact Survey” data were supplemented with a content analysis of journalistic writings and interviews with community organizers. Together, the findings partially supported Strain and Social Boundaries theories. Irrespective of gender social boundaries, militarization led to higher levels of mistrust in the police. While drivers did not trust militarized police, pedestrian mistrust included other factors that illustrated gendered differences. Direct police interactions largely shaped female pedestrian mistrust. In contrast, male pedestrian mistrust stemmed from their community social standing, based on their racial identity, income, and age. Unlike the scholars who used a legal framework, this research contributed to existing literature on police-community relationships by focusing on the people directly impacted under a sociological lens. Additional examinations of police perspectives on community relations are warranted.