Citizen Attitudes Toward Police in Light of Community Policing

Helen Rosenberg, University of Wisconsin - Parkside
Scott Lewis, Racine City Hall

Police demeanor in interaction with citizens and their effectiveness in traditional and community policing roles are examined for the mid-sized Midwestern city of Racine, Wisconsin over four years. While most people give police high scores on their demeanor with citizens, African-Americans are least likely to rate police as being espectful, helpful, and fair in their interactions with the public. When we examine the nature of interactions with police, we find that people who converse informally with police are more satisfied with their interactions than those who are approached as suspects or accused of a crime. With regard to citizens' assessment of the traditional policing role, people in Racine do not have much faith in the ability of police to prevent crime and keep order. Specifically, people who see youth hanging out in the streets, see police force as excessive, and come from neighborhoods in decline are most likely to rate police poorly on their ability to perform traditional policing tasks. Attitudes are relatively neutral with regard to police officer capabilities to perform such community policing tasks as responding to non-emergency situations and working with the community to solve local problems. People who feel crime is declining in their neighborhoods tend to rate police higher than those who say crime had remained stable or increased.

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Updated 05/20/2006