(Mis)Trusting the Police: Gauging Levels of Confidence between the Latina/o Community and the Santa Barbara Police
This pilot survey research project, conducted in the summer of 2011 by a collaborative of PUEBLO and the University of California Center for New Racial Studies, explores the relationship between the Santa Barbara Latina/o community and local police. Bilingual teams of student researchers and community members went door-to-door soliciting respondents’ perceptions of police, levels of civic engagement, and general comfort living in the city. A brief summary of our findings follows.
Data collected during the survey indicate that although there is not an acute crisis of trust between the Latina/o community and police, some patterns of interaction with police have eroded the Latina/o community’s willingness to interact with law enforcement. The community relies, as before, on the police to respond in emergencies and to keep them safe. Still, under certain conditions, people are much less likely to trust police. Respondents who have had a direct experience with police in the past or perceive themselves as likely to interact with the police in the future are less likely to express trust in police. These members of the Latino community are less likely to turn to police in times of need.
Santa Barbara is at a crossroads. While everyone in Santa Barbara relies on effective policing, there are marked instances of Latina/o mistrust, misgivings, and confusion about the police and police practices in the city. Both respondents and researchers recognize that the police have made efforts toward establishing a more trusting relationship with the community. Yet we recommend that further steps be taken to cultivate trusting relationships with the Santa Barbara Latino/a community.
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