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Perceptions of policing among criminal defendants in San Jose, California

Published onAug 18, 2022
Perceptions of policing among criminal defendants in San Jose, California
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Perceptions of policing among criminal defendants in San Jose, California
Description

This report summarizes perceptions of policing among a racially and socio-economically diverse sample of 37 people who faced criminal charges in the Hall of Justice, a courthouse in San Jose, California, between August 2021 and March 2022. A majority of criminal defendants we interviewed reported negative perceptions of personal police treatment, but a considerable minority reported positive perceptions. Among those who reported negative perceptions, two criticisms were common: (1) individual police officers’ violence, abuse, and fabrication of evidence; and (2) systemic policing practices that are overly intrusive and estrange certain disfavored groups in the Bay Area, such as the unhoused. Among those who reported positive perceptions, some believe that, despite their personal experiences of positive treatment, police do not treat everyone fairly and policing quality varies by context and the race of the policed person. Alongside these perceptions, a handful of defendants in the sample offered visions for changing policing. Two notable visions were: (1) reallocating resources from police departments toward other city services or under-resourced groups; and (2) reforming police departments in ways that reduce discrimination and abuse. While we discuss variation along demographic characteristics in our sample, we foreground how the range of experiences and visions of policing in San Jose have implications for policymakers and future research.

 

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