Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Police--Public opinion; African Americans--Attitudes; Discrimination in law enforcement--Public opinion; African Americans--Civil rights--Public opinion;


Perceived racial biases of police officers may impact encounters with Blacks and negatively impact relations between Black communities and police officers. Understanding factors that influence public perceptions of law enforcement may help researchers and policy makers target intervention programs to improve relations. This study examined the role race plays in public perceptions of a routine traffic stop and local local law enforcement. White and Black participants, recruited at public places in a midsize city in Iowa, read a vignette about a Black or White individual who was pulled over by a White police officer. Participants then answered questions regarding whether the police officer was justified in pulling the individual over and about their perceptions of the local police. Black participants were less likely to agree that the traffic stop was justified compared to White participants, regardless of race of the driver. In addition, Black participants were less likely to give local law enforcement satisfactory ratings for their quality of policing and were also less likely to report feeling a sense of community cohesion compared to White participants. These findings suggest that Blacks may hold negative views of police officers in general, rather than only believing that the police are biased against Blacks. These negative views may lead to distrust between Black communities and police officers, which may ultimately have negative outcomes for both parties involved.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Helen Harton, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (viii, 105 pages)



File Format