Protecting and Serving: What Actually Matters to Young, Black Men in Durham, North Carolina

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2021

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Abstract

Young Black men in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and intensive policing have a greater risk of violent death—both at the hands of civilians and police—than any other demographic group in the United States. Yet, there is a dearth of academic research that examines safety and what constitutes legitimate policing from this demographic’s perspective. In this dissertation, I conduct two-hour qualitative interviews of 21 young Black men living in Durham, NC to examine how they assess police and their desired police reforms. Chapters focus on participants’ (1) criteria for judging how well police are doing; (2) ideal attributes of officers well-suited to carry out their vision of policing; and (3) standards for building and maintain trust. I find that participants are principally concerned with the unpredictable nature of policing. Their reforms center on forging a police force that is predictable and reliable, and whose actions reflect a government contract they are owed as American citizens and, more importantly, human beings. Findings enrich our theoretical understanding of what this population believes would need to change to ensure their communities are and feel safe. Each substantive chapter concludes with policy recommendations for police departments and municipal leaders.

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Clemmons, Ajenai Shareece (2021). Protecting and Serving: What Actually Matters to Young, Black Men in Durham, North Carolina. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23791.

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