Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


David P. Milen


Increased interactions between police and Hispanic citizens in suburban communities suggest a need for officers to possess cultural awareness and competency for successful service; however, how cultural competency develops in officers remains elusive. This qualitative interpretative phenomenological study’s purpose was to explore cultural competency’s role in police-Hispanic citizen interactions through the lived experiences of officers in Northwest Indiana. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory and Bennett’s developmental model for intercultural sensitivity comprised the research frameworks. Data collected through semi-structured interviews of 9 officers representing 4 police departments in northwest Indiana revealed the officers’ existing cultural competency was predicated by self-motivation reflective of lifetime family and social influences. While professional interaction experiences played a role in cultural competency development, the policing profession demonstrated limited influence, lacking in developing and measuring cultural competency in their officers. Policy implications include cultural competency assessments in the hiring process, cultural competency training reflecting the community’s cultural makeup, and cultural competency measurement of officers engaging in police-citizen interactions. Implications for positive social change include creating community partnerships to develop cultural awareness in officers, establishing department cultural competency development policies, and promoting culturally competent officer-community engagement, affirming the policing professions’ commitment to not only protect but to serve all community populations.