Aboriginal people and the police: attitudes, perceptions and the construction of social reality
Strelioff, Brian L.
This thesis examines police-Aboriginal (Indian and Metis) community relations in Saskatoon during the fall and winter of 1992. Aboriginal perceptions of, attitudes towards, and experiences with, police are examined. While this is not a comparative study, 'race' is theorized to be an important variable governing police treatment of Aboriginal peoples as citizens, suspects, offenders and victims of crime. The interactional processes of encounters are regarded as essential to understanding police-Aboriginal relations. This study also seeks to reveal perceptions of differential treatment; pertinent factors which contribute to the construction and maintenance of attitudes held by urban Aboriginal peoples towards police, and what Aboriginal peoples feel can be done to improve the current state of police-Aboriginal relations. Theoretically, a synthesized left realist criminological/agency tradition of racialization perspective is developed for it focuses on accumulated knowledge and lived experiences of subjects as a basis for the social relations to be studied. The argument is made that Aboriginal people are perceived by police to be a population of 'moral concern' and as such, are more apt to be regarded as troublesome and treated as criminals. The data were gathered via questionnaire which asked Aboriginal respondents a wide variety of questions pertaining to their perceptions of, attitudes towards, and experiences with, Saskatoon police. The questionnaires obtained background information about respondents, responses to a 5 point Likert scale of attitudinal statements pertaining to police-Aboriginal relations, and responses to specific questions which requested written responses. Analysis of the quantitative data involved descriptive presentation, factor analysis, reliability analysis, difference of means tests, Pearson's correlation procedures and regression analysis. Qualitative data were thematically coded and examined. Importantly, the study revealed two primary factors pertaining to attitudes towards the police. These are conceptualized as 'Persecution' and 'Marginalization' and they are useful in arguing that police perceive Aboriginal peoples to be a population of 'moral concern'. It was also found that many respondents had experienced trouble with police, and that physical or verbal abuse by police is not uncommon.