Instead of taking the mainstream media’s word for how people feel about local law enforcement, organizations in several communities surveyed their citizens for a more accurate perspective.
During the tense days of the Derek Chauvin trial in March, the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA) contracted with Cygnal (a polling, analytics and targeting company) to question residents of several East Texas cities about police support. The results found that nearly three-fourths of participants claimed to have full faith in their local cops.
“They do not believe that we should have wholesale changes to public policy based on rhetoric and hyperbole, but they do expect us to improve the level of services that law enforcement provides,” says Kevin Lawrence, TMPA executive director, as reported by CBS19.
Lawrence not only found the outcome reassuring, but also validating for TMPA’s goal to lobby police and sheriff’s departments to provide more training for their officers.
“The amount of training required to become a licensed peace officer in Texas is less than half the amount of training required to become a licensed cosmetologist,” he told the local news station. “And then, on top of that, you’re only required to go through 20 hours of in-service training every year, that’s the baseline required by the state. We’re not mandating de-escalation. When we start trimming budgets, which are the first two things you trim when you start looking at budget shortfalls? Staffing and training.”
In California’s Stanislaus County, the recently formed Project Resolve, a group of law enforcement and community leaders, also surveyed people living within its borders about support for law enforcement. Interestingly, the results mirrored those in Texas — 74% of respondents expressed support for local police departments, 73% supported individual officers and 72% supported the sheriff’s department.
“Of course, the goal would be 100%, but in this profession, that’s probably never going to happen even though we might want it to,” Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, who also leads Project Resolve, commented to The Modesto Bee.
The survey also confirmed that 38% of respondents believed they had a negative interaction with law enforcement, and more than one-fourth felt officers racially profiled them.
Seattle was one of the more chaotic locations during the 2020 protests, but a recent questioning of its citizens also proved that individuals hold positive opinions of police. A citywide questionnaire sent out this spring by Seattle University and answered by more than 11,000 Seattleites divulged that the annual police legitimacy score (based on a scale of 0–100) fell by less than one point: 58.4 in 2020 compared to 59.3 in 2019, reported The Seattle Times. When broken down into specific neighborhoods, researchers learned that the Emerald City’s most diverse neighborhood almost matched the city score at 57.9. Racial results probably delivered the biggest surprise, with Black residents giving a legitimacy ranking of 61.3. Not surprisingly, the biggest divides came from political and age classifications.
TMPA’s Lawrence told reporters that such surveys provide law enforcement agencies with critical data because, he believes, the best community policing models
learn from the communities where they operate.
“The better we understand our citizens, and more importantly, the better our citizens understand why law enforcement does what it does the way it does … the fewer misunderstandings we’re going to have,” he says.