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Immigrant Perceptions of Police: From Nigeria to Arizona

Sarpong, Dennis (2021) Immigrant Perceptions of Police: From Nigeria to Arizona. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Policing is a crucial piece of almost all democratic societies. In line with the meaning of democracy as a governance system, citizens expect institutions such as law enforcement agencies to be equitable and fair in their engagements with the people they serve. Criminologists describe fairness in processes as “procedural justice.” Recent scholarship on citizen perceptions of police testifies to the importance of procedural justice in policing. Most of these studies are quantitative in their approach and methods. However, one issue has received little attention from criminologists: demographic changes concomitant with African immigrants' continuous growth in the United States and what that means for policing. To contribute to the scarce literature on police-African immigrant relationships, I adopt a qualitative approach to explore Nigerian immigrants’ perceptions of policing in Phoenix, Arizona. I interviewed eleven immigrants face-to-face to better understand their experiences and perceptions of policing. Thus, this thesis seeks to answer two questions: (i) what are Nigerian immigrants' perceptions of police in Phoenix, Arizona and how is that influenced by their perceptions of police in Nigeria? (ii) what factors determine the crime reporting behavior of Nigerian immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona? Studies show that immigrants carry their experiences with police in their home countries to their new environments, and these experiences impact their perspectives on police in those environments. Guided by this empirical evidence, I explored Nigerian immigrants' perceptions of policing in Nigeria as well as Phoenix. Respondents emphasized that procedural justice does not exist equally in policing in Nigeria but is instead driven by the social status of citizens. Similarly, socioeconomic status is deterministic of police effectiveness at fighting crimes and crime reports. Generally, these unfavorable perceptions about policing in Nigeria pose significant challenges to police-citizen relationships and police effectiveness at crime control. Immigrants in this study have more favorable perceptions of procedural justice for police in Phoenix, Arizona. However, procedural justice and crime reports are given racialized conceptualizations, which limit the perceptions of full fairness from African immigrants. Contrary to most studies on policing, instrumental factors, such as perceptions of police performance and perceived consequences of immigrant actions as witnesses of crimes or during police encounters, seem to be more relevant to Nigerian immigrants. Instrumental decisions of immigrants regarding crime reports demonstrate that their home countries' experiences may indeed impact their perceptions of police in Phoenix, Arizona. This finding suggests that police-African immigrant relationships might improve if police departments first understand the policing experiences immigrants bring to their communities, and demonstrate respect, fairness, and neutrality to all minority groups. From the data, here are some policy implications. Consistent with other immigrant studies, immigrants in this research study show extreme fear of the police, so they try to avoid police contacts. This fear negatively affects any needed relationship immigrants can have with the police. Therefore, I suggest that police departments in immigrant communities should organize public forums to educate immigrants on the roles and procedures of the police. Immigrants will be more empowered and willing to collaborate with the police without fear. Legal socialization scholars, such as Rick Trinkner (2012), have increased calls regarding this initiative. Secondly, most immigrants seek to integrate into U.S societies; therefore, police departments should take an interest in understanding home-country policing perceptions of immigrants. Such an understanding will enable the police in Phoenix to find evidence-based solutions on how to begin and form effective partnerships with immigrants.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Crime report; Immigrants; Policing; Procedural Justice; Nigeria; Phoenix, Arizona; Police services for minorities;
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Social and Behavioral Science > Sociology and Social Work
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2022 20:54
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2022 20:54
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5816

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