Recent media accounts have highlighted issues of use and abuse of police force and policing practices targeted at ethnic minorities within inner city areas. To date, little research has focussed specifically on the experiences and perceptions of youth gang members in dealing with police. Using data from 253 in-depth interviews with ethnic minority San Francisco-based youth gang members, we examine perceptions of respectful and disrespectful police behaviour. Premised on a procedural justice model, we explore how frequently disrespectful police behaviour is reported and how these negative experiences shape gang members’ attitudes towards the police more generally. We refine our investigation by comparing adverse encounters to examples in which gang members are treated respectfully. Using a data-driven inductive and qualitative theory testing deductive approach, our data revealed that male and female gang members regularly experience disrespectful police behaviour in terms of physical and verbal abuse. Our findings indicate that these exchanges contribute to negative attitudes, fear and distrust of police, while respectful interactions are meaningful and can contribute to positive attitudes towards officers.
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