Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Larry G Martin

Second Advisor

Simone C Conceicao

Committee Members

Decoteau Irby, Tina L Freiburger


Arab-Americans, perception, post 9/11, terrorism



The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had a serious impact on local police relations and their local minority groups. September 11, 2001, negatively shaped the treatment of Arab Americans at the hands of local police and many arms of the federal government. This was due to the increased role of local police in intelligence gathering and immigration law enforcement.

Many urban police departments shifted their policing strategies from community policing to traditional crime fighting and intelligence gathering after September 11, 2001. Arab Americans as a local minority community suffered the brunt of such strategies where police routinely disregarded many rules of law enforcement during their interactions with Arab Americans. As several researchers focused on a similar topic related to terrorism in general that “Counterterrorism has clearly emerged as one of the top priorities in the post 9/11 era of American policing” (Sun, Wu, & Poteyeva, 2011, p. 540). However, the nature of fear and distrust of police and federal agencies among members of the Arab community was under-analyzed in the literature. This research was designed to examine how Arab Americans perceive their local police based on their experiences and to what extent Arab Americans’ experiences and perceptions inform their decisions in terms of contacting police when needed post 9/11in metropolitan Milwaukee. In this qualitative study, I interviewed 15 Arab Americans living in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. After establishing the participants’ demographic backgrounds, I asked four major questions: (1) How do Arab Americans perceive police post 9/11 in Metropolitan Milwaukee? (2) How do Arab Americans’ backgrounds influence their formal understanding of American police? (3) What are the critical incidents/personal or vicarious experience(s) that define the relationship between Arab Americans and police? (4) What is the nature and consequences of Arab Americans’ contact with police? The responses were analyzed, and I manually extracted recurring themes. Three themes emerged (1) Arab Americans’ perception of their own racial identity influence their interpretation of encounters with local police post 9/11; (2) Arab Americans’ personal encounters with local police resulted in positive and negative experiences of police; and (3) Arab Americans’ suspiciousness of the motives of law enforcement officers. Research into the meanings of Arab Americans’ experiences and perceptions can inform law enforcement agencies about how to provide treatment that is more equitable and have dialogue that is more constructive to this community.