Police-Latino Community Relations: Addressing Challenges in Rural Communities
Within the last decade, the growth of the Latino population in the midwestern United States--often termed the "browning" of the Midwest (Aponte and Siles, 1994; Rochin, Siles, and Gomez, 1996; Rosenbaum, 1997; Rural Migration News, 1996)--has received much attention. Consequently, much discussion has focused on how the increase in Latino residents is affecting education, health care, housing and other public issues. While these concerns are important, little research has investigated what impact the population growth has on the criminal justice system, specifically police-community interactions. This focus is particularly important for rural communities in the Midwest where law enforcement is faced with new challenges in addressing the needs of Latino immigrant communities while maintaining current relationships with majority communities. This essay is based on the Cambio de Colores 2003 conference presentation "Latinos and Law Enforcement: A Report Card," which highlighted the findings from research conducted on police-Latino relations in three mid-Missouri communities--Warrensburg, Knob Noster, and Sedalia (Herbst, 2002). An overview of relations between the police and Latino community is provided followed by a discussion of problem areas in this relationship. The essay concludes with suggestions on how these problem areas can be mitigated to help develop and strengthen police-Latino community interactions.