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LEARN > Use Cases > Perceptions of Police Activities: Results from the Policing in America Survey

Perceptions of Police Activities: Results from the Policing in America Survey

1 Jun 2021
Use Cases

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Executive Summary

The Policing in America Project — launched by the Data Foundation, data.world, Microsoft, SpotCrime, Forward Cities, and NORC in 2020 – was created to gather information about perspectives on police activities in the United States and calibrate new insights with existing open data. The first phase of the project was to conduct the Policing in America Survey. This paper summarizes the results of the representative household survey and key findings, including perspectives and experiences of survey respondents and examines observed similarities and differences by race and ethnicity.

In February and March 2021, residents in portions of two large metropolitan areas in the United States were surveyed about public perceptions and experiences with the police: Cook County, Illinois, in the Chicago metropolitan area and Dallas County, Texas, in the Dallas metropolitan area. While the two geographies included in the Policing in America Survey are unique in their demographic composition, history, culture, economic circumstances, and police activities, the majority of findings were similar in both counties while the magnitude of between group differences varied on some measures. Key findings include:

Black and Hispanic residents were less likely than white residents to feel safe in their neighborhood.

White residents were more likely to be satisfied with the police activity in their neighborhood, compared to Black & Hispanic residents.

Black and Hispanic residents were more likely to witness police misconduct than white residents.

Black and Hispanic residents were more likely than white residents to expect police to use force during the majority of arrests.

No differences by race and ethnicity in residents' intentions for using 911.

General agreement on the leading activities police should prioritize, while Black residents were more likely than white residents to prioritize police walking around the neighborhood and talking to neighborhood members about their concerns.

Results from the Policing in America Survey provide local leaders in Chicago and Dallas relevant perspectives about perceptions from their communities on a range of issues associated with public satisfaction and expectations for police activity. The findings from these two counties may not be generalizable to the country as a whole, yet offer insights and lessons relevant for federal and local policymakers, police administrators, and the American public. The following seven recommendations are based on the first phase of the Policing in America Project:

Local governments should establish clear performance indicators for policing based on community satisfaction and perception.

Local government policymakers and police departments should develop “learning agendas” to establish cycles of continuous evaluation and improvement.

Local governments should allocate resources for relevant survey-based data collection about perceptions, experiences, and attitudes.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics should provide support to local governments in collecting perception and attitudinal data at the local level.

The U.S. Department of Justice should include research activities related to improving services that over time enrich attitudes and perceptions as part of the departmental learning agenda and annual evaluation plan.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Chief Data Officer, Evaluation Officer, and Statistical Official should convene a forum with local government policymakers and police departments to identify additional strategies for enhanced data collection, management, and use.

Congress should appropriate funding to support state and local data about attitudes and perceptions, and resources for program evaluation of policing activities.

The benefits of establishing an improved national capability for collecting relevant data to understand and monitor perceptions about local policing holds potential benefits for the American people. Collectively our country’s policymakers at the national and local levels have an obligation to ensure relevant information is collected and used for good decision-making. Implementing these recommendations would be a productive step for evidence-based practice and policymaking related to policing activities.

A second report for the Policing in America Project in 2021 will explore the relationship between the variables presented here and incorporate additional data sources for an extended analysis.

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