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Why Law Enforcement Agencies Should Measure Public Sentiment

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Why Law Enforcement Agencies Should Measure Public Sentiment

The implementation of law enforcement agencies varies city by city. Since it’s a case to case basis, the public also has varying opinions on their own experiences of law enforcement. As local citizens, they are well aware of the behavior and attitude of their law enforcement agencies.

Let’s try to decipher a little bit more. How about we take on the law enforcement’s point-of-view, a commanding officer to be exact. The public might have already shown disagreement towards the law enforcement agency, and they already have expressed their side of the story, but here are some issues that might have been missed out:

Having a weak relationship within the community would create mistrust that would lead to the point where it would be hard to convince other people that everything is going well. Even if the commanding officer understood and agreed to the public’s sentiments, their perceptions would still be biased.

As mentioned, varying cities have varying law enforcement agencies. That’s why it will be difficult to reflect and compare the community’s experiences with others. Many influencing factors such as belief, tradition, and heritage play a big role in the public’s sentiment. This, too, differs by location.

Change is inevitable. The public’s views and opinions are often changed primarily due to current issues and new policies. This “strain of change” can be a source of hindering the improvement of law enforcement agencies. 

All of the issues mentioned above are from a subjective point of view which can only be solved through a direct and consistent survey. If you tackle each issue one by one, you will receive a lot of biased opinions based on experience, way of living, objective ideas, and how they perceive events. You need to let them answer consistent questions, which will opt to give you the same line of thought even if it came from different opinions.

Another way of settling the issue is when law enforcement interacts with the public daily and tries to understand the public’s lifestyle. In some cities, police departments have strong relationships with the people since they are often exposed to fieldwork. These departments are the ones that can truly understand what the public feels.

As stated in a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice, the impression and opinion of an individual about the neighborhood can be influenced by their personal experience with the law enforcers. (1)

What Law Enforcement Agencies Should Do

According to a research study by the US Department of Justice, the lessening of negative police encounters is more effective in improving the public opinion about the police rather than increasing the numbers of positive experiences. (2) This simply implies that more negative experiences have greatly affected the police’s overall standing within the community. 

Another study from NIJ, states that the current situation on crimes and disorders within a neighborhood is a significant factor in shaping their opinion about the police. (3)

Law enforcement agencies should equally take close attention and time to study and analyze data from surveys and researches within the community. This is a significant step towards improvement and eventually resolving community issues. Having to communicate such sentiments will help create a common ground where both parties can meet and agree with each other.

Conclusion

It’s clear as day. Law enforcement agencies should be flexible to adjust and adapt to trends and the community’s current environment. The public’s opinion, sentiments, and impressions of them greatly impact the community’s quality of life. The police serve to protect the public. That’s why it is necessary to take measures for the overall improvement of the police agency and the neighborhood.

References:

1.Reisig, M. D., & Parks, R. B. (2000, March). Satisfaction With Police—What Matters? https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/194077.pdf 

2. Vera Institute of Justice. (2003, December). PUBLIC OPINIONS OF THE POLICE: The Influence of Friends, Family, and News Media. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/205619.pdf

3.Maxson, C., Hennigan, K., & Sloane, D. C. (2003, June). Factors That Influence Public Opinion of the Police. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/197925.pdf 

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