The current studies examined whether the race and gender of a person under suspicion (Studies 1 and 2), as well as the race of the person who called the police (Study 2) influences perceptions of police conduct. Participants read a summary in which the police were called on individuals waiting in a coffee shop (Study 1; N = 133) or sleeping in their dorm common room (Study 2; N = 247). Suspect race (Indigenous vs. White) and gender (male vs. female) were varied in both studies. In Study 2, the race of the person who called the police also varied (Indigenous vs. White). Participants in Study 1 believed race influenced the call to police and the arrest when the suspect was Indigenous (vs. White). Additionally, in both studies, participants were more likely to think that gender influenced the call to police and the arrest when the suspect was described as male (vs. female). The current studies provide new insight regarding public perception of racialized police communication.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
The authors chose to use the term ‘Indigenous Peoples’ when describing previous research. Alternative terminology that was commonplace at the time may have been used in the original research.
The race and gender of the participants were not examined in this study due to the unrepresentative nature of this sample, where participants were predominately female (73.7%) and White (54.1%).
Abrams, D., Palmer, S. B., Rutland, A., Cameron, L., & Van de Vyver, J. (2014). Evaluations of and reasoning about normative and deviant ingroup and outgroup members: Development of the black sheep effect. Developmental Psychology, 50(1), 258–270. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032461
Abwender, D. A., & Hough, K. (2001). Interactive effects of characteristics of defendant and mock juror on U.S. participants’ judgment and sentencing recommendations. Journal of Social Psychology, 141(5), 603–515. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224540109600574
Ayoyo, D. D. (2018). The perceptions of police-black civilian deadly encounters in North America among Black immigrants in a western Canadian city. Societies, 8, 42. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8020042
Bagby, R. M., Parker, J. D., Rector, N. A., & Kalemba, V. (1994). Racial prejudice in the Canadian legal system. Law and Human Behavior, 18(3), 339–350. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01499592
Barber, S. (2020). Death by racism. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 20(8), 903–903. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30567-3
Bradbury, M. D., & Williams, M. R. (2012). Diversity and citizen participation: The effect of race on juror decision making. Administration & Society, 45, 563–582. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095399712459729
Brown, B., & Benedict, W. R. (2002). Perceptions of the police: Past findings, methodological issues, conceptual issues and policy implications. Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 25, 543–580. https://doi.org/10.1108/13639510210437032
Brunson, R. K., & Miller, J. (2006). Gender, race, and urban policing: The experience of African American youths. Gender and Society, 20, 531–552. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243206287727
Cao, L. (2014). Aboriginal people and confidence in the police. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 56, 449–525. https://doi.org/10.3138/CJCCJ.2013.E05
Chartrand, V. (2019). Unsettled times: Indigenous incarceration and the links between colonialism and the penitentiary in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 61(3), 67–89. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjccj.2018-0029
Cheng, H. (2015). Factors influencing public satisfaction with the local police: A study in Saskatoon, Canada. Policing, 38, 690–704. https://doi.org/10.1108/pijpsm-11-2014-0125
Chow, H. P. H. (2012). Attitudes towards police in Canada: A study of perceptions of university students in a western Canadian city. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 7, 508–523.
Clark, M., Davidson, R., Hanrahan, V., & Taylor, N. E. (2017). Public trust in policing: A global search for the genetic code to inform policy and practice in Canada. Journal of Community Safety & Well-Being, 2, 101–111. https://doi.org/10.35502/jcswb.57
Clow, K. A., Lant, J. M., & Cutler, B. L. (2013). Perceptions of defendant culpability in pretrial publicity: The effects of defendant ethnicity and participant gender. Race and Social Problems, 5, 250–261. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-013-9102-1
Cobbina, J. E., Conteh, M., & Emrich, C. (2019). Race, gender, and responses to the police among Ferguson residents and protesters. Race and Justice, 9(3), 276–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/2153368717699673
Cochran, J. C., & Warren, P. Y. (2012). Racial, ethnic, and gender differences in perceptions of the police: The salience of officer race within the context of racial profiling. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 28, 206–277. https://doi.org/10.1177/1043986211425726
Coletta, A. (2020). Video emerges of Canadian police assaulting Indigenous chief in March. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/video-emerges-of-canadian-police-assaulting-an-indigenous-chief-in-march/2020/06/12/9426ce9a-acac-11ea-a43b-be9f6494a87d_story.html
Cooley, E., Hester, N., Cipolli, W., Rivera, L. I., Abrams, K., Pagan, J., Sommers, S. R., & Payne, K. (2020). Racial biases in officer’s decisions to frisk are amplified for black people stopped among groups leading to similar biases in searchers, arrests and use of force. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 11(6), 761–769. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550619876638
Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1, 139–167.
Dean, K., Wayne, J. H., Mack, D., & Thomas, K. (2000). An examination of happiness, racism, and demographics on judgments of guilt. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30, 816–832. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2000.tb02825.x
Devine, D. J., & Caughlin, D. E. (2014). Do they matter? A meta-analytic investigation of individual characteristics and guilt judgments. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20, 109–134. https://doi.org/10.1037/law0000006
Ewanation, L., & Maeder, E. (2018). The influence of witness intoxication, witness race, and defendant race on mock juror decision making. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 60, 505–536. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjccj.2017-0047.r2
Forsterlee, L., Fox, G. B., Forsterlee, R., & Ho, R. (2004). The effects of a victim impact statement and gender on juror information processing in a criminal trial: Does the punishment fit the crime? Australian Psychologist, 39, 57–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/00050060410001660353
Gilbert, P. R. (2002). Discourses of female violence and societal gender stereotypes. Violence against Women, 8, 1271–1300. https://doi.org/10.1177/107780102237405
Graziano, L. M. (2018). News media and perceptions of the police: A state-of-the-art-review. Policing, 42, 209–225. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-11-2017-0134
Graziano, L. M., & Gauthier, J. F. (2017). Media consumption and perceptions of police legitimacy. Policing, 41, 593–607. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-12-2016-0177
Griggs, B. (2018). A black Yale graduate student took a nap in her dorm’s common room. So a white student called the police. CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/09/us/yale-student-napping-black-trnd/index.html
Haddock, G., Zanna, M. P., & Esses, V. M. (1994). The (limited) role of trait-laden stereotypes in predicting attitudes towards Native peoples. British Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 83–106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1994.tb01012.x
Hancock, A-M. (2013). Empirical intersectionality: A tale of two approaches. University of California Irvine Law Review. Retrieved from https://scholarship.law.uci.edu/ucilr/vol3/iss2/6
Hansen, E. (2017). The forgotten minority in police shootings. CNN. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/10/us/native-lives-matter/index.html
Hendree, P. K., & Nicks, S. D. (2000). Perceptions of violent crimes in relation to sex of the perpetrator. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 90, 485–488. https://doi.org/10.2466/PMS.90.2.485-488
Hymes, R. W., Leinart, M., Rowe, S., & Rogers, W. (1993). Acquaintance rape: The effect of race of defendant and race of victim on white juror decisions. Journal of Social Psychology, 133(5), 627–634. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.1993.9713917
Kil, H., Noels, K. A., Vargas Lascano, D. I., & Schweickart, O. (2019). English Canadians’ cultural stereotypes of ethnic minority groups: Implications of stereotype content for acculturation ideologies and immigration attitudes. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 70, 104–118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2019.03.005
Kule, A., Bumphus, V., & Iles, G. (2019). Intersectionality of race, class, and gender in predicting police satisfaction. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 17, 321–338. https://doi.org/10.1080/15377938.2019.1658143
Lord, C. (2020). Ottawa petition seeks to end ‘the weaponization of 911 calls’ against Black, Indigenous, racialized people. Global News. Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://globalnews.ca/news/7215505/ottawa-racism-911-calls/
MacLin, M. K., & Herrera, V. (2006). The criminal stereotype. North American Journal of Psychology, 8, 197.
Maeder, E., & Burdett, J. (2013). The combined effect of defendant race and alleged gang affiliation on mock juror decision-making. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 20, 188–201. https://doi.org/10.1080/13218719.2011.633330
Maeder, E., & Yamamoto, S. (2019). Social identity in the Canadian courtroom: Effects of juror and defendant race. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 61, 24–44. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjccj.2018-0057
Maeder, E. M., & Yamamoto, S. (2018). Investigating race salience, defendant race, and victim race effects on mock juror decision-making in Canada. Justice Quarterly, 36(5), 929–953. https://doi.org/10.1080/07418825.2018.1460390
Maeder, E., Yamamoto, S., & McManus, L. A. (2015). Race salience in Canada: Testing multiple manipulations and target races. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 21, 442–451. https://doi.org/10.1037/law0000057
Mazzella, R., & Feingold, A. (1994). The effects of physical attractiveness, race, socioeconomic status, and gender of defendants and victims on judgments of mock jurors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 1315–1338. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.1994.tb01552.x
McCaskill, D. (2012). Discrimination and public perceptions of Aboriginal people in Canadian cities. Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network Research Paper Series. Retrieved from https://uakn.org/research-project/discrimination-and-public-perceptions-of-aboriginal-people-in-canadian-cities/
McKenzie, H. A., Varcoe, C., Browne, A. J., & Day, L. (2016). Disrupting the continuities among residential schools, the sixties scoop, and child welfare: An analysis of colonial and neocolonial discourses. International Indigenous Policy Journal. https://doi.org/10.18584/iipj.2016.7.2.4
McManus, L., Maeder, E., & Yamamoto, S. (2018). The role of defendant race and racially charged media in Canadian mock juror decision making. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 60, 266–295. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjccj.2017-0035.r1
McNamarah, C. T. (2019). White caller crime: Racialized police communication and existing while Black. Michigan Journal of Race and Law, 24, 335–415.
Minero, L., & Espinozo, R. K. E. (2016). The influence of defendant immigration status, country of origin, and ethnicity on juror decisions: An aversive racism explanation for juror bias. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 38, 55–74. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739986315620374
Mitchell, T. L., Haw, R. M., Pfeifer, J. E., & Meissner, C. A. (2005). Racial bias in mock juror decision-making: A meta-analytic review of defendant treatment. Law and Human Behavior, 29, 621–637. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-005-8122-9
Moradi, B., & Grzanka, P. R. (2017). Using intersectionality responsibly: Toward critical epistemology, structural analysis, and social justice activism. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64, 500–513. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000203
Morrison, M. A., Morrison, T. G., Harriman, R. L., & Jewell, L. M. (2008). Old-fashioned and modern prejudice toward Aboriginals in Canada. In M. A. Morrison & T. G. Morrison (Eds.), The psychology of modern prejudice (pp. 277–305). Nova Science Publishers.
Mossière, A., & Maeder, E. M. (2016). Juror decision making in not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder trials: Effects of defendant gender and mental illness type. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 49, 47–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2016.05.008
Nadal, K. L., Davidoff, K. C., Allicock, N., Serpe, C. R., & Erazo, T. (2017). Perceptions of police, racial profiling, and psychological outcomes: A mixed methodological study. Journal of Social Issues, 73, 808–830. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12249
Nagy, R., & Sehdev, R. K. (2013). Introduction: Residential schools and decolonization. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 27(1), 67–73. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjls.27.1.067
O’Connor, C. D. (2008). Citizen attitudes toward the police in Canada. Policing, 31, 578–595. https://doi.org/10.1108/13639510810910571
Perszyk, D. R., Lei, R. F., Bodenhausen, G. V., Richeson, J. A., & Waxman, S. R. (2019). Bias at the intersection of race and gender: Evidence from preschool-aged children. Developmental Science, 22(3), e12788. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12788
Pfeifer, J. E., & Ogloff, J. R. P. (2003). Mock juror ratings of guilt in Canada: Modern racism and ethnic heritage. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 301–312. https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2003.31.3.301
Pica, E., Pettalia, J., & Pozzulo, J. (2017). The influence of a defendant’s chronological age, developmental age, and race on mock juror decision making. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 32, 66–76. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-016-9201-1
Pica, E., Sheahan, C. L., & Pozzulo, J. (2019). Prior allegations of harassment impact mock jurors’ perceptions of sexual harassment in a criminal trial. Sex Roles, 82, 541–549. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01076-2
Pica, E., Thompson, L. E., Pozzulo, J., & Sheahan, C. L. (2020). Perceptions of police conduct when race and gender are considered. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 35, 131–145. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-019-09346-1
Pinto, I. R., Marques, J. M., Levine, J. M., & Abrams, D. (2010). Membership status and subjective group dynamics: Who triggers the black sheep effect? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 107–119. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018187
Plant, E. A., & Devine, P. G. (1998). Internal and external motivation to respond without prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 811–832. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1991
Plant, E. A., & Devine, P. G. (2009). The active control of prejudice: Unpacking the intentions guiding control efforts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(3), 640–652. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012960
Pozzulo, J. D., Dempsey, J., Maeder, E., & Allen, L. (2010). The effects of victim gender, defendant gender, and defendant age on juror decision making. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37(1), 47–63. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854809344173
Prentice, D. A., & Carranza, E. (2002). What women and men should be, shouldn’t be, are allowed to be, and don’t have to be: The contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 269–281. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-6402.t01-1-00066
Reisig, M. D., & Parks, R. B. (2000). Experience, quality of life, and neighborhood context: Hierarchical analysis of satisfaction with police. Justice Quarterly, 17, 607–630. https://doi.org/10.1080/07418820000094681
Rosenbaum, D. P., Schuck, A. M., Costello, S. K., Hawkins, D. F., & Ring, M. K. (2005). Attitudes toward the police: The effects of direct and vicarious experience. Police Quarterly, 8(3), 343–365. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098611104271085
Rudman, L. A., & Fairchild, K. (2004). Reactions to counterstereotypic behavior: The role of backlash in cultural stereotype maintenance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 157–176. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.52
Schuller, R. A., Kazoleas, V., & Kawakami, K. (2009). The impact of prejudice screening procedures on racial bias in the courtroom. Law and Human Behavior, 33(4), 320–328. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-008-9153-9
Shakeri, S. (2020). Indigenous mom Chantel Moore killed by New Brunswick police. Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved June 7, 2020, from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/chantel-moore-police-shooting_ca_5ed99019c5b6aaebfd2b32f0
Sommers, S. R., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2001). White juror bias: An investigation of prejudice against Black defendants in the American courtroom. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 7, 201–229. https://doi.org/10.1031//1076-89184.108.40.206
Statistics Canada. (2019). Public perceptions of the police in Canada’s provinces. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2020001/article/00014-eng.htm
Statistics Canada. (2020). Overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the Canadian criminal justice system: Causes and responses. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/oip-cjs/p3.html
Statistics Canada. (2021). Visible minority of person. Retrieved from https://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p3Var.pl?Function=DECI&Id=257515
Steffensmeier, D., & Demuth, S. (2006). Does gender modify the effects of race—ethnicity on criminal sanctioning? Sentences for male and female White, Black, and Hispanic defendants. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 22(3), 241–261. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-006-9010-2
Steffensmeier, D., & Kramer, J. H. (1982). Sex-based differences in the sentencing of adult criminal defendants: An empirical test and theoretical overview. Sociology and Social Research, 66(3), 289–304.
Steffensmeier, D., Painter-Davis, N., & Ulmer, J. (2017). Intersectionality of race, ethnicity, gender, and age on criminal punishment. Sociological Perspectives, 60(4), 810–833. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731121416679371
Steffensmeier, D., Ulmer, J., & Kramer, J. (1998). The interaction of race, gender, and age in criminal sentencing: The punishment cost of being young, black, and male. Criminology, 36, 763–798. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9125.1998.tb01265.x
Sterritt, A. (2020). Indigenous grandfather and 12-year-old handcuffed in front of Vancouver bank after trying to open an account. CBC. Retrieved January 9, 2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/indigenous-girl-grandfather-handcuffed-bank-1.5419519
Stewart, E. (2018). Two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for doing nothing. Vox. Retrieved April 15, 2018, from https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/4/14/17238494/what-happened-at-starbucks-black-men-arrested-philadelphia
Taylor, T. O., Wilcox, M. M., & Monceaux, C. P. (2020). Race and sexual orientation: An intersectional analysis and confirmatory factor analysis of the perceptions of police scale. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 7(3), 253–264. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000392
Tyler, T. (2005). Enhancing police legitimacy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 593, 84–99. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716203262627
Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study. (2010). Urban aboriginal peoples study: Main report. Retrieved from https://www.uaps.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/UAPS-FULL-REPORT.pdf
Wayne, J. H., Riordan, C. M., & Thomas, K. M. (2001). Is all sexual harassment viewed the same? Mock juror decision in same- and cross-gender cases. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 179–187. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.86.2.179
Webb, V. J., & Marshall, C. E. (1995). The relative importance of race and ethnicity on citizen attitudes toward the police. American Journal of Police, 14, 45–66. https://doi.org/10.1108/07358549510102749
Weitzer, R., & Tuch, S. A. (2005). Determinants of public satisfaction with the police. Police Quarterly, 8, 279–297. https://doi.org/10.1177/109861110421106
Wortley, S., & Owusu-Bempah, A. (2009). Unequal before the law: Immigrant and racial minority perceptions of the Canadian criminal justice system. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 10(4), 447–473. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-009-0108-x
Wortley, S., & Owusu-Bempah, A. (2011). The usual suspects: Police stop and search practices in Canada. Policing and Society, 21(4), 395–407. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2011.610198
Wright, J. E., & Headley, A. M. (2020). Police use of force interactions: Is race relevant or gender germane? American Review of Public Administration, 50(8), 851–864. https://doi.org/10.1177/0275074020919908
Yoon, J., & Bernstien, J. (2019). Black, Indigenous people 4 to 5 times more likely than whites to be stopped by Montreal police. CBC. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/spvm-racial-profiling-report-recommendations-and-findings-1.5311589
Conflict of interest
Chelsea Sheahan, Emily Pica, Lauren Thompson, Alexia Vettese, and Joanna Pozzulo declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. These studies were approved by the Carleton University Research Ethics Board-B (#108956 and #109575).
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Sheahan, C.L., Pica, E., Thompson, L.E. et al. The Influence of Indigenous Identity and Gender in Perceptions of Behavior in Response to Racialized Police Communication. Race Soc Probl 15, 246–261 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-022-09363-6