Comparative Research on the Policing of Minorities in the U.S. and Israel

Awarded Scholars:
Avital Mentovich, University of California, Los Angeles
Tom Tyler, Yale University
Guy Ben Porat, Ben Gurion University
Project Date:
Oct 2013
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

Social psychologists Avital Mentovich and Tom Tyler, together with political scientist Guy Ben Porat, will examine how law enforcement is experienced (both first and second-hand) by dominant and stigmatized groups in the United States and Israel. Though there are many differences in the ethnic foundation and composition of the U.S. and Israel, the challenges they face in policing minorities are similar. In both cases, minorities (Black and Latino communities in the U.S. and Arab communities in Israel) show low levels of trust and little willingness to cooperate with the police. The goal of this research project is to illuminate and compare the ways in which experiences with the state—as experienced via direct and indirect contact with the police—influence feelings of integration into a culture.

Specifically, Mentovich et al. will examine how and why minority and majority groups may differ in what they need from the police, in how they generate views about the police, and in the meaning they assign to policing with regard to their standing in society. Using quantitative survey questions, they will conduct face-to-face interviews with 250 white and 250 black residents in Metropolitan Los Angeles, and with 250 Jewish and 250 Arab residents in Tel Aviv- Jaffa, Israel. The samples will be drawn from one mixed neighborhood in each city, using U.S. and Israel census data to identify two neighborhoods that are relatively similar in socioeconomic measures and in ethnic composition (in terms of the ratio between white/ Jews and Arabs/ blacks).

Studying the dynamics of police-minority relations in mixed neighborhoods has compelling implications for policy development and procedural innovations aimed at securing trust and confidence in the law enforcement system. These include: understanding how to identify the causes that affect distrust and how to engage minority communities; understanding how particular policies and practices increase or diminish the confidence of communities in the police; and understanding how police practices increase compliance and cooperation among minority communities, increase trust in police, and possibly facilitate broader social integration of minority groups.


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