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Making Sense of the Gap: Recognition and Police-citizen Encounters

Sun, August 12, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, Franklin Hall 4

Abstract

This paper examines the role of “recognition” in how people make sense of their encounters with police. We draw on 53 semi-structured interviews with recently arrested suspects in Cleveland, Ohio – and a city currently under federal consent decree due to a pattern and practice of police using excessive force. Arrestees report a considerable gap in the exchange of respect between officer and citizen: that they show respect to police that is not reciprocated. It is through their various accounts of this surplus that the cultural work of recognition emerges – participants were least concerned with tackling police violence and most longing for officers that acknowledge the humanity behind the communities they police by responding to their calls for help and understanding the various challenges they face, including poverty, domestic violence, and marginalization. Exploring how “recognition” matters in police-citizen contacts advances our understanding of the cultural facets of inequality in criminal justice and legal fields.

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