Policing has become an integral component of urban life. New models of proactive policing create a double-edged sword for communities with strong police presence. While the new policing creates conditions that may deter and prevent crime, close surveillance and frequent intrusive police-citizen contacts have strained police-community relations. The burdens of the new policing often fall on communities with high proportions of African American and Latino residents, yet the returns to crime control are small and the risks of intrusive, impersonal, aggressive non-productive interactions are high. As part of the proffered tradeoff, citizens are often asked to view and accept these invasive tactics as a necessary means to the ends of reduced crime and improved public safety. This paper examines the degree to which urban residents’ show a willingness to engage in a “rights tradeoffs” and sacrifice their civil liberties to maintain public safety. Using a telephone phone survey of 960 New York City residents, we find little openness to rights tradeoffs tied to perceived neighborhood danger. However, respondents who see the police as legitimate and effective in producing safety are more likely to support such tradeoffs. The results suggest that trust in the police can give them wide berth to infringe on civil liberties in the interest of crime control, regardless of local crime conditions, the abrasiveness of police contact, and the extent and type of the intrusions on privacy and liberty.
Amanda Geller, Jeffrey Fagan & Tom Tyler,
Do the Ends Justify the Means? Policing and Rights Tradeoffs in New York City,
Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-581
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/2092