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Reena Mathew
Professor Trimble
ENG 3020
9 December 2016
Police and Community Relations: Analysis of its Change Since 1967
On August 9, 2014, one of the most shocking events occurred in Ferguson,
Missouri and it shook the country. A white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black
man named Michael Brown who was only 18 years old (Buchanan et al.). Brown had no
weapons on him and did not pose a threat to the police officer, and the Grand Jury decided
not to indict the officer. These events led to an unrest that lasted for almost a year. The
unrest echoed the same events that occurred in Detroit in 1967. As a result of these
incidents, the reputation of police officers greatly decreased. The Ferguson Effect is a
term used to describe the chain of events that occurred as a result of the shooting.
Americans across the country started challenging the police more and felt that they could
not trust the police (Jonsson). Therefore, it is very important for the police to establish a
good relationship with the community to remove the negative connation some people may
have of the word police officer.

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The job of the police is a complex one and involves many roles, unlike other
careers. It not only involves crime-related issues, but community issues as simple as noise
complaints. In fact, more than 80% of police tasks involve non-criminal matters (Johnson
and Gregory 4). There are also different opinions about the police. While some consider
them protectors and reliable, others are not able to trust the police and view them as a
hindrance who are usually there to take away freedom. This problem is especially
prevalent today with many cases of police brutality in recent news. Since the police have
such a large role in the community, it is extremely important that relations among the law
enforcement and general public are good. These views of the public have been shown in
multiple surveys and have interesting results, especially compared across different races
among the population. The surveys that assess the satisfaction and the treatment of citizens
by the police in addition to online interviews will be my primary source of data, with my
main focus on the city of Detroit.
The purpose of my research is to evaluate how police relations with the community
have changed over time since the Detroit Riots of 1967. My research also plans to provide
information on how these relations can be improved, and I will assess how effective it was
by using surveys that were conducted years after the event, as well as now.


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Ever since the Riots of 1967, the police have become more militant-like. Usually
police officers would only press charges and countercharges against citizens. However, as
issues grew worse, many police officers used indiscriminate use of force against innocent
people, primarily African Americans (Bergesen 262). There have been cases of police
violence against the community as mentioned by the public and police officers. Along with
this, there are efforts being made to reduce this such as providing officers with courses that
instruct them on how to improve relations with the community.
Police and the Public. There have been reports of deaths of civilians caused by
officials (officials refers to police, National Guard units, and federal troops) because they
were looting, standing in crowds, driving or riding in vehicles, staying in homes, or
because of personal attacks. Also, only 13% of the deaths in the Detroit riot were caused
by civilians, with the rest from police. There were instances where the police would shoot
at crowds and cars. One of the cases was that the police were shooting down a street
hitting a man at the corner of the street. The man was not provoking the officials in any
way like others have through sniping, throwing items, or setting fires. Instead, he was only
a bystander. As the riots progressed in Detroit, so did the violence from officials. In the
first two days of the riots in Detroit, there was an equal amount of violence caused by
accidents on civilians and official violence. However, for the rest of the days there were 19
instigated deaths and only 2 accidental deaths (Bergesen 273). It is because of what

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happened in the riots that so many people in the community have negative attitudes
towards police, including police officers themselves.
A Police Officers Perspective. The public is not the only one talking about how
police officers have shown disrespect. A police officer named Arthur Niederhoffer from the
New York Police Department shed light on the hiring process of police officers around the
time of the riots. Niederhoffer says that most of the officers are recruited from a population
where they hold more anti-African American attitudes than the average population (Levy
33). For this reason, Niederhoffer says that the police system is closed-minded and has its
own values and standards. He believes this is why black citizens on every poll show a high
level of distrust against policemen. Of course, he believes that a majority of police officers
are genuinely good people, however he describes that there are still bad eggs in the
bunch (Levy 33).
Ways of Improvement. Tensions between police officers and the community have
been strained and police officers have been getting a bad reputation. The best way to
improve police-community relations is through training programs, especially ones for
veteran officers which emphasize community relations skills (Walker and Kratcoski 18).
These programs would have two- and four-year degree programs which mostly involve
social sciences. These social science classes would further educate them about cultural
differences and minorities. If police officers increase their awareness of cultural
differences of people with ethnic backgrounds, they will be more understanding and

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sympathetic which would improve community relations. Police officers tend to assume the
worst in situations which may be why police relations may have not been good lately. The
actual incidence of danger for police officers may be lower than any other jobs such as
mining, firefighting, and agriculture. However, the potential danger for police officers is a
lot higher and can create occupational stress which affects the socialization of members. In
addition to being educated, socialization with members of the community is an important
way to improve relations (Walker and Kratcoski 23). In measuring the general satisfaction
with the police and the community, the most important factor was the personal contact with
the police rather than other variables such as race, income, and religion combined (Walker
and Kratcoski 18-19). Nearly all police leaders in the United States participate in the
movement to improve community relations. It is crucial that the police officers never show
any disrespect towards others as it could lower their departments credibility to the public
(Mastrofski et al. 520). The main reason why people are dissatisfied with the police is
because they do not meet their expectations. Another way to improve relations among the
community is to increase professionalism of the police. Professionalism is a key factor in
making police-community relations better as they improve how credible or trustworthy the
authorities are. Some characteristics of professionalism include enforcing the law and
obeying higher officials. On the other hand, it is essential that the police do not go too
overboard and become too militant. The police have become more militant and have
carried out this militancy sometimes through violence. This frustration may be from the

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feeling that they do not have enough resources and are not compensated enough. One
example of how the community is frustrated is from the fact that many people are not
satisfied with the DPOA (Detroit Police Officers Association). Most people believe that
they are militant-like and do not care for the interests of the community. Although many
people believe that the DPOA could potentially be beneficial, it did not rise up to the
communitys expectations (Goldner and Koenig 175). In order to see if these answers were
accurate, I decided to research this topic myself.

Sampling Method. The data in this research consisted of a few interviews and
pieces of survey data. These interviews were not in-person, rather they were collected
online through a website titled, This website has collections of
interviews of people who were affected by the Detroit 1967 Riots directly or indirectly
even if they may not have been present at the riots at the time. I found these interviews
through the Oral and Written History Archive and viewed the collection of stories they
had. The website has a category titled Police, National Guard, and Firefighters.
Therefore, I chose this for my research data as it would be the most convenient to get very
relevant information from. All of the questions from three different interviews were: What
did you notice, both as a citizen and as a police officer about the city during the time
following 1967? Was there a grudge by the police then because of what had been
happening [from the riots]? Did you see a big change of the police department in 67?

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Besides interviews, I also used surveys as my research. I gathered three surveys that talked
about the racial divide on police, perceived inequities in police protection, and perceptions
of the Detroit police by race.
Sources. The interviews, as mentioned previously, were from
The interviewees names are Felton Rogers and Anthony Fierimonte and they are both
white. Both of these interviews were originally recorded in the Detroit Historical Museum
and were published online. Rogers was 74 years old at the time of the interview and was
raised in the East Side of Detroit. At the time of the Riots of 1967, he was a rookie officer
working at the Detroit Police Department. The other interviewee, Anthony Fierimonte, was
also 74 years old at the time of the interview. At the time of the 1967 Riots, he worked vice
and was involved in the blind pig raid. In addition, my survey data came from a variety of
sources. First was a survey titled Perceived Inequities in the Police Protection Provided
Selected Groups in the Detroit Ghetto. This survey was conducted in 1971 by the Law &
Society Review and was made accessible through the academic journal database JSTOR.
The responses of the survey were from those living in ghetto areas. The second survey
data was titled Perceptions of Detroit, Crime and the Police by Race from 1982 through
the Howard Law Journal. The respondents of this survey were both black and white.
Lastly, there was another survey conducted in July 2016 titled Racial divide on police,
Black Lives Matter from a magazine called Bridge Michigan. This survey had black and

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white respondents as well. I did not use all of the parts of the surveys and only used one
section of each, as not all of the data on the survey was relevant to my research.

The findings of my research gave me a lot of insight about the topic of policecommunity relations. In the interview with Felton Rogers, Rogers talked about how he
noticed that after the Riots of 1967, tensions settled down between the police and the
general public. He explained that the relationship became friendlier (Rogers). Next, in
Anthony Fierimontes interview, Fierimonte mentioned that many police officers had to
enroll in programs and be instructed on how to improve community relations following the
Riots of 1967 (Fierimonte). He said that there was change, but it was a very slow process.
In talking about how the riots got started, he said that the Riots of 1967 were different from
other riots because in this one, the rioters started getting very violent by breaking into
windows and stealing, unlike what the police officers would usually see. The surveys also
provided a great deal of information regarding police relations with the community. In the
first survey Perceived Inequities, the data shows 43% of those living in the ghetto
believe there is a great deal of inequity in police protection when comparing white versus
black homeowners. The rest of the percentages were 40% for those who believed there was
equal protection, 12% for some inequity, and 5% in not much inequity in police protection
(Hahn 187). The second survey, Perceptions of Detroit, asked about police satisfaction
and compared answers of white people versus black people. The survey data shows that

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60.8% of black people are somewhat satisfied with the police, whereas 47.9% of white
people are somewhat satisfied with the police. There was a higher percentage for white
people who were very satisfied with the police (23.9%) compared to black people
(16.3%). In addition, there were more black people very dissatisfied with the police (7.2%)
versus white people (7.0%) (Littlejohn 1154). The last graph titled Racial divide asks,
Overall, do you think that police officers in your community treat blacks better, worse, or
about the same as they treat white people? In these results, it showed that more black
people answered worse (37%) than white people (15%). Also, more white people
answered same (74%) compared to black people (49%) (McGraw 1).

Significance of Findings. Police and community relations have been strained for
many years, and it shows in this data. In addition, the evidence did not come out as clear as
expected. There were some contradicting data with the interviews and the surveys. For
example, Rogers explains in his interview that relations between the police and the general
public have become more cordial (Rogers). Also, Fierimonte concluded that relations are
somewhat improving. In order to evaluate the changes in survey data over time, I analyzed
how much of a discrepancy there was when comparing between white and black people. In
contrast to the interview data, the surveys showed more of a negative response over time.
For example, the 1971 survey showed 43% of people believing there were protection

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inequities between whites and blacks, whereas 40% believed there was equal protection;
this means that there is a 3% discrepancy. The 1982 survey shows 60.8% of black people
somewhat satisfied, whereas 47.9% of white people were somewhat satisfied; these
answers show a discrepancy around 13%. Lastly, the 2016 survey showed 37% black
people answered that blacks are treated worse by police, but white people answered 15%.
This survey has a 22% discrepancy for that one answer, where the other answer same
shows a discrepancy of 25%. These surveys showed that white people viewed the police
more positively than black people. These results of the survey indicated that relations
between police and the community has gotten worse, particularly among African
Americans. I would conclude that the community relations programs were not very
effective. There may be reasons for the differing answers between the answers of the
police officers and the survey data. One of them may be because of the environment the
police officers were living in. They may have seen relations between police and the
community improve around them, but it most likely did not reflect the general population
of Detroit. Still it is unclear to draw a clear conclusion on how relations are overall
because of the conflicting results.
Limitations of Study. This study taught me a great deal of information, however
there were many inconveniences. For example, I was unable to find specific data on the
exact information I wanted. The data I used was all from people in Detroit which was my

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focus, however it was extremely difficult to find data on the same topic of policecommunity relations over time. For example, the first graph I talked asked people living in
the ghetto how much police protection inequities there was when comparing white and
black people. My second graph talked about how satisfied black and white people are with
the police. My third survey I used asked white and black people whether blacks are treated
better, worse, or the same as white people. The data I compared should have all asked the
same question. I also should have gathered surveys that were conducted an equal amount
of time apart. My first survey was conducted in 1971, the second in 1982, and the third in
2016. I should have found a survey around the mid-90s as it would show if the
discrepancies between white and black people greatly or slowly changed. I found myself
comparing data that was not exactly consistent (much like apples to oranges), which may
be ineffective to conclude from. If I could, I would conduct my own survey and interview
people around the city of Detroit so I could be able to get answers to my own questions. I
was also limited by the fact that I was unable to interview someone about this topic, as the
people I knew believed they did not have enough knowledge to talk about it. It was quite
easy to find interviews online, but not everyone who conducted the interviews asked the
same questions I wanted, and if they did, there would not be enough information to
conclude from it. The interviewees who I got my data from were both white, so their
opinions may be biased. The bias may be similar to Niederhoffers claim about police
officers being recruited from neighborhoods where there were not many black people. The

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officers may not have been exposed to the troubles that many black people faced at the
time. The officers answers were similar to how other white people answered on the
surveys. Also, the interviewees were both men, so I think it would be interesting to
interview women as well to see what their perspective on this issue is. The best way to go
about this topic would be to gather several people who have different occupations, races,
genders, and/or living in different parts of the city. Therefore, it will less likely be biased
and it would be more likely to match the answers of the general Detroit population.
Questions for further study. If I was given more time for this project, I would
conduct my own interviews and surveys and find more people of different backgrounds to
represent the general population of Detroit. I would most likely interview several people
from the Hannan House or another senior center in Detroit. I would also make sure to ask
person in the study about how they believe police relations have changed since the Riots of
1967, since it was hard to get a clear picture through survey data that did not exactly
pertain to that information. In addition to interviewing members of a senior center, I could
also interview retired police officers possibly by reaching out to the Detroit Police

In our society today, there are many issues with police-community relations
including the events that unfolded in Ferguson. Many people look at police officers more

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like a foe rather than a friend. This research aimed to compare if police officers were
harsher towards civilians around the Riots of 1967 compared to the present. According to
several academic journals, there have been a lot of cases of police harming civilians, but
there were efforts made to improve these relations. In the interview data I collected, the
police officers also stated that there is progress being made. However, this conflicts with
the survey data collected. This conflict with the survey data may be because they may have
been biased or did not witness any problems in where they were living. Also, there may
have been a fault with the survey data as all three of them were inconsistent and would be
difficult to come to a definite conclusion with them. Based on all of the evidence I
gathered through research, I believe it is more likely that police relations with the
community have gotten slightly worse over time. Although this is how it appears on data,
my answers could be completely different if I used other methods of research by
interviewing and conducting research myself. Through this, I could interview people of
different backgrounds which could bring more unbiased and accurate results which would
prove my research more effective. One part I can say for certain is that it is essential for
officials and the community to build strong and trustworthy relationships where a citizen
can look at a police officer like a good friend and a protector. This would be very
beneficial as it would bring about a safer community for all and prevent any more unrests
from happening again.

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Works Cited
Bergesen, Albert. Race Riots of 1967: An Analysis of Police Violence in Detroit and
Newark. Journal of Black Studies, vol. 12, no. 3, 1982, pp. 261274
Buchanan, Larry, Ford Fessenden, K. K. Rebecca Lai, Haeyoun Park, Alicia Parlapiano,
Archie Tse, Tim Wallace, Derek Watkins, and Karen Yourish. "What Happened in
Ferguson?" The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 09
Dec. 2016.
Fierimonte, Anthony. "Anthony Fierimonte, October 10, 2014." Interview by Ric Mixter. Detroit Historical Society, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.
Goldner, Norman S., and Ronald Koenig. "White Middle-Class Attitudes Toward an Urban
Policemen's Union." Sage Journals. N.p., Apr. 1972. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.
Hahn, Harlan. "Ghetto Assessments of Police Protection and Authority." Law & Society
Review 6.2 (1971): 187. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.
Johnson, Deborah, and Robert J. Gregory. "Police-Community Relations in the United
States: A Review of Recent Literature and Projects." Journal of Criminal Law and
Criminology 62.1 (1971): n. pag. Web. 8
Dec. 2016.
Jonsson, Patrik. "Just What Is the 'Ferguson Effect'? It Depends on How You View
Police." The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 12 June
2015. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.

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The American Behavioral Scientist (pre-1986) 2.4 (1968): 31. ProQuest. Web. 6
Dec. 2016.
Littlejohn, Edward; Smitherman, Geneva; Quick, Alida. "Deadly Force and Its Effects on
Police-Community Relations." Howard Law Journal 27.4 (1984): 1154.
Mastrofski, Stephen D., Michael D. Reisig, and John D. McCluskey. "Police Disrespect
Toward the Public: An Encounter-based Analysis." Wiley Online Library. N.p., 3
Nov. 2002. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.
McGraw, Bill. "Metro Detroit Racial Divide Is Widest over Police." Bridge. Bridge
Michigan, 28 July 2016. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.
Rogers, Felton. "Felton Rogers, June 17, 2015." Interview by Lillian Wilson and Noah
Levinson. Detroit Historical Society, 17 June 2015. Web. 7 Dec.
Walker, Donald B., and Peter C. Kratcoski. "A Cross Cultural Perspective on Police Values
and Police-Community Relations." Criminal Justice Review, vol. 10, no. 1, 1985.,
pp. 17-24