Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Jerry Regier


The purpose of this study was to explore, understand, and describe college student perceptions of the police based on if they grew up in rural or urban communities. Three aspects of college student perception of the police covered in this study are effectiveness, fairness, and legitimacy. Effectiveness may include police responsiveness and empathy as well as crime prevention and resolution. As opposed to internal biases, fairness is more external and may include equal treatment regardless of demographic differences. Lastly, legitimacy is more philosophical and revolves around the lawfulness of state power via police over a people. Researchers acknowledge that due to 'urbanormativity,'rural populations are less studied in crime research. The literature also noted a growing divide between rural and urban cohorts, especially after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Given the recent subculture divergence between rural and urban cohorts, a goal of this study was to explore if perceptions of police diverge and if so on which aspects: effectiveness, fairness, and legitimacy. Eight college students participated in the qualitative study. The results of the study suggest that where a participant grew up (rural or urban) was not as influential on perceptions of police as whether the participant knew the name of an officer in his or her community. Findings from the study may be used by police administration to develop a more nuanced understanding of how community members knowing officers socially can improve perception of law enforcement.