Nix and Tregle Release Results of their 2018 National Police Executive Survey
A recent study conducted by Justin Nix, assistant professor in the UNO School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Brandon Tregle, a UNO School of Criminology and Criminal Justice doctoral student, examined police executives’ perceptions of their working environments and willingness to be transparent with their communities. In collecting their data, Nix and Tregle sent a survey to 2,496 police chiefs across the country, randomly selected from the National Directory of Law Enforcement Administrators. A total of 673 completed surveys were returned, resulting in a 27% response rate. Of the 673 respondents, 479 were the chief of their agency.
The survey asked police chiefs questions on a variety of topics, including:
- How citizens treat police officers
- The quality of relationships they have with officers under their command
- How often they feel they have the support of their mayor, town council, judges, and prosecutors
- How fairly they feel the national and local news media cover policing
- Their fear of one of their officers being falsely accused of misconduct
- Their willingness to be transparent with the community
- Their commitment to exercising fairness as a leader
- The confidence they have in their authority and the extent they feel people in general treat one another fairly
In addition, Nix and Tregle embedded a randomized experiment in the survey about a hypothetical officer-involved shooting captured on body-worn camera. Chiefs were presented with one of four randomly assigned vignettes, wherein the citizen shot by an officer in the chief’s agency was (1) white and armed with a handgun, (2) white and holding a cellphone, (3) black and armed with a handgun, or (4) black and holding a cellphone. They were then asked a series of questions about steps they would take in the aftermath of the shooting in order to be transparent with the community, as well as how they felt the news media would cover the incident.
In general, the results were encouraging. Chiefs indicated that most citizens treat police officers fairly and respectfully, that they had good relationships with the officers under their command, and that they often felt supported by the mayor, town council, judges, and prosecutors. They felt that local media were more fair toward their agency than national media are toward law enforcement more generally. They expressed great confidence in their authority, a strong commitment to fair leadership, and a willingness to be transparent with the public despite being somewhat fearful of false allegations being made against one of their officers. With respect to the experiment, there were few noteworthy differences in the responses of chiefs from each of the randomly assigned groups. In other words, chiefs expressed a desire to be transparent with the community about the shooting regardless of whether the person shot was white or black, armed or unarmed.
Both Nix and Brandon will present more of their findings at the 2018 American Society of Criminology meeting in Atlanta, GA. A summary of their results is available here.
Story published September, 2018
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