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Understanding the negative attitude of the public towards police

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2989 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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As chief of a medium size city in the United States, you are aware that the citizens in your community have a lower than expected opinion of the effectiveness of the police department. Design a research proposal that will provide for a randomized public survey in an attempt to understand the nature and extent of the negative public opinion. Include in your plan a sample survey instrument that would be used in the research. Include in your plan, proposed hypotheses and how these hypotheses will be tested.

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The researcher will attempt to design a research proposal by using a randomized public survey in an attempt to try and understand the negative attitude of the public toward the police department. With this method prospective participants are chosen by chance rather than by choice. The researcher will also include in the research proposal a proposed hypothesis, an explanation of how this hypothesis will be tested and a sample survey.


The researcher is always amazed to see that there are many individuals who are more than willing to serve their community in ways that are many times without thanks and dangerous. Among these elite individuals are law enforcement officers. In general many of us are not aware that they are present until some news headline shows up saying that there is a problem or that something or the other went wrong. We as a society need to understand the stress and strain of the law enforcement community that serves us and it is important that we support them. The researcher for one cannot imagine an individual running toward danger when for the most part many of us will choose to run away.

So what really happens in law enforcement when there is a less than favorable story and the community begins to focus their entire attention on the incident? It is the researcher’s belief that from the perspective of individual officers’ there may be a lot of is a lot of concern and assumption of what is going to happen. There may be a lot of pressure, especially if the individual(s) in question end up in front of a Grand Jury or other court proceeding, not to mention the fact that if there is a civil action it can go on for years. So in essence, does this have an impact on how these law enforcement officers’ approach their job and or their community? When one really thinks about it, often times the entire enforcement department is suspect when there are a few officers in question. Many believe that there is always some concern that depending on the situation the impact could be negative. “There could be a lack of focus. It could be very distracting. It could create doubt about ones support or role. The individual or organization could be hesitant to engage or be proactive in the work they have been challenged or asked to do in the service to their community” (Rice, 2010).

It’s not very often that the publics’ opinion of police departments is positive. Corruption, unethical behavior, Police brutality, and excessive use of force are all part of the negative views that the public have about law enforcement officers. These types of behavior of law enforcement have had a huge impact on the manner in which the public view law enforcement and the opinion that they have of them. Because of the tactless lack of judgment of some law enforcement officers, the uprightness of the profession of law enforcement officers has become a bit shaded. Let’s face it; it is not always news-worthy when the good guys are doing a good job, it’s really that simple.

The media has great influence on the interest of public opinion because they make the determination of what will be seen and what will not. The researcher has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly with the law enforcement department in my city. It is the researchers’ personal experience with law enforcement officers has been nothing but stellar, helpful, professional, and informative. The researcher do however think that law enforcement departments have their fair share of good and bad, but it’s the bad that gets the attention and when the public grabs a hold of it they take it and run.

Studies have found that the characteristic of a neighborhood and the interaction that they have with law enforcement are factors that have the most influence of the opinion that the public have on law enforcement. “The study, conducted in Los Angeles, found that residents from neighborhoods perceived to be crime ridden, dangerous, and disorderly were less likely to approve of the police. In contrast, residents who had informal personal contact with police were more likely to express approval. Race and ethnicity, factors cited as influential in other studies, were not found to be as important as community disorder in determining the public’s satisfaction with police” (Maxon, Hennigan, & Sloane, 2003).


If a civilian review board is put in place there will be a change in the opinion of the public regarding law enforcement and there will be less complaints from citizens’ on a whole. There are major differences between the number of citizens who convey that they are dissatisfied with law enforcement and those who officially make complaints. Many will argue that a lot of citizens do not go on to the next stage in lodging a complaint because they are of the belief that a full investigation will not take place and nothing will happen. Some citizens also may fear retaliation from law enforcement. Supporters of civilian review boards is of the strong belief that the public will be more likely to have more confidence in a process when a complaint is made to a group of civilians rather than by forwarding their concerns to a unit in a police force, and this in turn could increase the number of complaints (“An examination of,” 2006).


The sample for the study will be taken from four of the New York City’s Police Department’s (LAPD’s) 18 geographic areas. The areas will be chosen to reflect comparable rates of reported property and violent crimes and demographic profiles, in particular income and race/ethnicity. Included in the survey will be one delegate from each of the four (4) administrative bureaus. On the other hand, the four chosen areas are not, and are also not intended to be representative of the entire city.

Area A will be in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. This area has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the city, and it is estimated that it is more than four times higher than any of the other areas that would be included in the survey. In census taken in 1995, area A consisted of about 120,000 residents, of that number sixty percent (60%) were black and thirty-five percent (35%) were of Latino descent. Latinos have shifted into this area that was traditionally black in large numbers. Household incomes were reported among residents as follows: Eighty-five percent (85%) had household incomes below $45,000 and forty-three percent (43%) below $15,000 (U. S. Department, 2003).

Area B will be the Brownsville area of Brooklyn. The violent crime rate in this area is the second, and is infested by the biggest population of gang in the city, comprising of more than 8,000 gang members, consisting of about 45 gangs. Area B, nonetheless, has a below average rate for property crime between the four areas chosen for the. Area B is mainly comprised of eighty-four percent (84%) Hispanics with low income and many of its residents live in households that are multigenerational. In the census done in 1995 eighty percent (80%) of these residents reported household incomes as follows: thirty-two percent (32%) below $45,000 and thirty-two percent (32%) below $15,000 (U. S. Department, 2003).

Area C will be on the west side of the city. It has a somewhat violent crime rate that is low but among the areas to be surveyed, the rate of property crimes is the highest. Area C has an estimated 220,000 residents and is culturally mixed. Whites account for sixty-one percent, Latino twenty-two percent, Asians ten percent, and Blacks six percent. In the census done in 1991 residents reported the following incomes: Fifty-eight percent (58%) had incomes under $45,000 and seventeen percent (17%) had incomes below $15,000 (U. S. Department, 2003).

Area D will be in the Chelsea Piers area. The violent crime rate in this area is very low and the property crime rate is the second lowest (higher than area B). This area comprises of seventy -three percent (73%) whites, seventeen percent (17%) Latinos and eight percent (8%) Asians. The incomes of residents in this area is higher that the other three (3) areas to be surveyed. In the census done in 1991 the reported incomes were as follows: fifty percent (50%) had incomes above $45,000 and twenty-six percent (26%) had incomes above $75,000 (U. S. Department, 2003).


The researcher will conduct the survey via mail and face to face interviews. Residential addresses will be acquired from lists at the citywide utility service and will be coded to allow the collection of addresses inside the four (4) geographic regions. The survey will comprise of a random sample of five hundred and seventy (5,570) addresses. The procedures for the survey will be taken from Dillman’s Total Design Approach (Hoddinott, & Bass, 1986), in addition to five contacts with possible survey respondents. A postcard notice will be sent in advance, four survey mailings of which two will contain an incentive of $1.00, and a thank you and or reminder notice will be sent following the mailing of the first survey. All survey materials mailed will include Spanish translations. The researcher will offer other languages in the event that one is needed.

Mail surveys let the respondent answer at their own leisure, rather than at the habitually inconvenient instant they are contacted for a phone or personal interview. Because of this, mail surveys are not considered as intrusive as other kinds of interviews. The downside is time! Mail surveys take longer than other kinds. The researcher will need to wait several weeks after mailing out questionnaires before he or she can be sure that they have gotten most of the responses.

The face to face method will include personal interviews which have the ability to let the interviewee see the respondent face to face, it also has the ability to find the target population, and longer interviews may be tolerated by the respondent. Particularly with in-home interviews that have been arranged in advance, people may be willing to talk longer face-to-face than to someone on the phone. The down side to this is that personal interviews usually cost more per interview than other methods. This is particularly true of in-home interviews, where travel time is a major factor.

The survey will summarize two (2) types of contact that the public has with law enforcement officers: formal contact and informal contact. The formal contacts will include residents calling the police departments in an attempt to ask for service, when residents are questioned by law enforcement officers about a potential crime that was committed. The informal contacts that residents has with law enforcement will include conversations with police officers who are on patrol and interactions that residents have with law enforcement at community meetings, youth activities sponsored by the police, and fairs about community and public safety.

The measure of job approval will be based on a six-question scale which will be transformed from Skogan’s work in Chicago, which will ask residents how well police in their neighborhood and solve problems, help victims, and prevent crime (Skogan, 1998). The measure of the demeanor of law enforcement officers will be formed from five questions that asked respondents whether police were trustworthy, fair, helpful or respectful, and whether or not they seemed concerned. The study will focus on four issues that appeared to have an influence on the opinion of the public on police departments.

The four issues will include the following:

The perceptions that residents have about the amount of crime, chaos and confusion in their neighborhood and the sense that neighbors’ have of common trust and responsibility.

The formal and informal contacts that residents have with law enforcement and their previous experience as victims of property and violent crimes if any.

The demographic characteristics of residents; and

The role that the media play in the perception that the public has on law enforcement.


The data received from the survey will be presented in pie charts, and rating scales which will show the percentage of individuals in each group and their opinion regarding law enforcement. Based on the results received it could show that there may be a need for more surveys to be done in order to understand the publics’ opinion of law enforcement because the acceptance of law enforcement authority by the public is essential for the maintenance of public order. Also, when the public has confidence in law enforcement it could lead to cooperation between law enforcement and the public at large, and this in turn can increase the effectiveness of policing. It is important for the public to trust and support law enforcement because this will be crucial when it comes to law enforcement’s expansion and maintenance.

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In order to measure the activities of local law enforcement, the sensitive measurement of public opinion is important. When law enforcement and the community exchange information it can foster a law enforcement-community partnership that can be tailored to specific concerns of the community (Maxon, Hennigan, & Sloane, 2003). The public’s opinion of law enforcement’s activities, fear, crime, and identifying strengths and problems in the community is an important representation of law enforcement. Surveys need to be done on a regular basis in order to further understand these issues. Independent organizations are the ones who should be responsible for conducting these surveys in order to prevent responses that are biased. If these surveys are conducted over a number of years then this will allow for a better understanding of the public’s opinion of law enforcement.

When community residents are surveyed, this can provide important information regarding the publics’ opinion of the activities of law enforcement. As the above survey will show, this kind of survey will provide a surprising amount of valuable information regarding the relationship between the public and law enforcement. This information can assist in directing both law enforcement and the public alike and assist in monitoring the effectiveness of law enforcement interventions.


Data from research shows that the public will have more trust in citizens like themselves rather than law enforcement and that they will be more than willing to file a complaint; Citizens will be more unprejudiced when it comes to assessing complaints from other citizens; Their impartiality will bring into being a higher percentage of valid complaints that will discourage and aid in reducing instances of misconduct by law enforcement; and because of these actions the public, will have more confidence in law enforcement. Many law enforcement officers accept having a citizens’ review board as something to be anticipated and stated their willingness to work with members of the public (“An examination of,” 2006).

The predicament for civilian review boards is that a good number of them do not have the clout and authority or the funds to make the first move on independent investigations of law enforcement nor to deliver judgments on complaints. For the most part all they can typically do is evaluate an investigation that was performed by law enforcement and put together commendations about punishment. Very rare do they have any final say over the decisions of law enforcement management (“An examination of,” 2006).

All in all, the majority of research studies suggest that if civilian review boards are given enough funds there is a much superior possibility that their work will have an impact on the conduct of law enforcement officers’ and this will in turn increase the publics’ confidence in the police. Even as there appear to be a broad-spectrum agreement that civilian review is a necessity in order to set up boundaries for law enforcement in a society that is democratic, this technique of citizens becoming engaged in law enforcement needs, to a greater extent, to be developed further if it is to be proven successful (“An examination of,” 2006).

Three of the most important issues are:

Instituting and simplifying the level of authority that civilian review boards will hold and their level of independence from law enforcement;

Making sure that they get enough resources to Ensuring they obtain adequate resources to accomplish their goals; and

Investigating ways of addressing the numerous facets of racism by law enforcement.

The main goal of civilian review boards is to accomplish a better balance between the public’s participation in law enforcement so that they are held answerable to the public, and enhancing the independence of the police so that public order can be preserved in a peaceful and democratic society (“An examination of,” 2006).


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