“We All Have Stories”: Black Muslim Immigrants’ Experience With the Police

B. Heidi Ellis, Alisa K. Lincoln, Saida M. Abdi, Elizabeth A. Nimmons, Osob Issa, Scott H. Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Understanding the relationships between immigrants and refugees and the police is a critical research task with implications for both community–police partnerships and the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts. This study contributes to such an understanding by examining perceptions of police and police interactions among Somali immigrants and refugees (both first and second generation) in three communities in the United States and Canada. This article presents in-depth analyses of qualitative interview data and draws upon multiple theoretical perspectives, specifically procedural justice and minority group threat theory. These perspectives have been employed to account for police–minority relationships in other works and we extend their application to a new group. We find that despite some evidence of positive interactions with police, current policing could do more to establish community trust and implement principles of procedural justice with Somalis in the United States and Canada. This article also finds support for the minority group threat theory in that study participants perceive that they experience harsher and more frequent policing due to their multiple marginalized statuses (Black, immigrant, and Muslim). Implications for both Somali immigrants/refugees and law enforcement are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-362
Number of pages22
JournalRace and Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Naima Agalab of the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center, who has been a partner in our work with the Somali community from the beginning and has provided leadership and training in their efforts to build community leadership teams in other cities. We thank Somali community advisors Farah Aw-Osman, Fatuma Hussein, Sharif Mohammed, and Rilwan Osman for their guidance and invaluable contribution to this project. We also thank the community youth who took time to share their stories. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by Department of Defense Minerva Research Initiative (N00014-13-1-0243) and the National Institute of Justice (2012-ZA-BX-0004 and NIJ 2014-ZA-BX-0014). The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Department of Justice. The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest regarding this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • Somali
  • immigrant
  • minority group threat theory
  • police interaction
  • refugee


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