These and numerous other studies point towards the importance of measuring the public perceptions of police. Knowing how the public feels about the police can help maintain public order, increase community-police cooperation, develop appropriate policing policies and practices, as well as concentrate police efforts where they are needed the most . In a 2005 study, a series of variables was used to measure Chinese immigrants’ perceptions of the Toronto Police Service (Chu and Huey-Long Song, 2008).
However, groundwork on the meaning of the questions, whether they measure what they are supposed to measure, and how well they measure it, is largely absent from the literature. Since fielding public opinion surveys tends to be expensive, with each additional question adding to the overall cost of the survey, a good cost-efficient approach would be to use fewer but more precise measures. Single measures of public perceptions of police performance, such as the ones discussed by Maguire and Johnson or developed by Johnson and colleagues , are good examples of such an approach. To derive these measures, confirmatory factor analysis could be applied to the existing data gathered by police services. The data would need to consist of multiple specific questions that, at least on the surface, measure similar concepts.
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What is mainly lacking in the general questions, however, is the understanding of specifically why citizens are happy or unhappy when it comes to police performance. Yet another methodological challenge is found in the wording of the questions that are being asked on surveys. Questions on favourable opinions or views of the police, for example, have been shown to produce consistently higher levels of satisfaction with police than questions on the levels of confidence in the police . Much theoretical work still needs to be done to understand the nature of this disparity. Some possible explanations of the phenomenon may be found in the conceptual nature of the two notions.
In an odd-numbered scale, the mid-point should be truly neutral and offered to the respondent as an option. For neutral responses, use “neither…nor” or “neutral” as wording to reflect the true neutral nature of the category. Answers to questions that have a different response scales cannot be compared to each other. There are different types of surveys that researchers can employ in order to derive these indicators. “One immediate explanation that springs to mind is that following the softer CPI data overnight, usually reliable Fed doves Kashkari and Evans reiterated that higher interest rates are required, and that rate cuts in 2023 are ‘unrealistic'”.
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- There are many examples of specific performance questions that are being asked of police in contemporary public opinion surveys in Canada and the Western World .
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While questions on the overall assessment of police provide some value to measuring police performance, their major shortfall is that they are too general to tease out specific information on what it is that citizens favour about the police services. More importantly, it is impossible to tease out that about which citizens are unhappy. When prompted about their overall satisfaction with the police, the respondents, in their mind, may be referring to police courtesy, effectiveness with battling crime, use of force, or any aspect of police work (Gallagher et al, 2001; Jackson and Bradford, 2010a). Respondents may further be referring to issues that may only indirectly relate to police efforts, such as social disorder in their neighbourhoods or their general fear of crime.
The rest of the public opinion surveys on satisfaction with police in Canadian municipalities, found online and included in this study, had varying questions that are not comparable between different police jurisdictions or to the national average. Other than the above-discussed approaches to the measurement of police performance in Moore and Braga’s seven dimensions of police work, it is possible, and often advisable, to supplement them with indirect measures through public opinion surveys. These surveys would assess citizens’ favourable views, confidence, and/or trust in the work that police do. Much like customer satisfaction with the performance of a private business or a corporation, the obvious approach to the measurement of this dimension of police work is through public opinion surveys. Surveys with those who have had contact with the police and asking them questions on their experiences is an important tool to understand whether police have been courteous and fair. These measures could further enrich the knowledge about the dimension of the use of authority and force.
However, the public space is also shared by the citizens of a community who desire to feel safe while present in that space. It is the responsibility of the police to ensure the safety and well-being of citizens in the public space. The emerging debate on how to best achieve long-term, sustainable levels of policing has included a discussion of targeting and refining the application of policing resources to ensure city index review police service delivery is both efficient and effective. It is recognized that, in order to assess the activities and performance of police, as well as how and where resources should be applied, objective performance metrics are required. Contact or victimization surveys target individuals who were in contact with the police, or who were victims of crimes and dealt with the police following their incident.
Further, crime images and stories portrayed by the media can contribute at least as much to people’s sense of fear regarding crime in their communities, as the actual risk of victimization in their neighborhoods. Still, reducing fear of crime is an important aspect of police work because if the police are only successful in dealing with the crime but leave citizens feeling unsafe, their job has only been partially accomplished. The aim of this project is to review and critically assess the current survey methods used to measure police performance in common law jurisdictions. Specifically, an emphasis is placed on the questions that are asked on different public opinion and community surveys in Canada and internationally, with the ultimate goal of recommending better approaches to conducting such surveys. Other police performance measures, such as operational metrics, are also touched upon, albeit to a lesser extent. For example, consider the general questions that are being asked on the overall satisfaction with police in seven Canadian cities, one provincial police service, and the RCMP.Footnote 9 These questions are measuring the same concept of general satisfaction with police.
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The number of arrests and fines issued are other traditional measures of police performance. Similar to crime rates, the number of arrests and fines issued by the police is a measure of performance because arresting criminals and enforcing the law by giving out fines for infractions is seen as one of the primary outcomes of police work. Second, crime that is reported to and recorded by the police is heavily dependent on the processes of police departments that receive and record the report. This table represents some of the questions on police performance that are asked on public opinion polls.
The process of measuring the success of the police work is far from straightforward. Growing policing costs are not sustainable for many jurisdictions, particularly given competing priorities for public funds, such as education and healthcare. Provinces and municipalities, as well as policing stakeholders, have voiced their concerns on this issue as they are finding it increasingly difficult to justify paying these levels for police services (Brennan, 2014; CBC, 2013).
This report focuses on one area of police performance measurement – public opinion polling. It is argued that measuring citizens’ perceptions of police performance is very important and is not a straightforward task. In as much as police work is complex and multi-dimensional, so is its performance measurement in the eyes of the public. Simply put, there is no one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf performance measurement tool or framework (Castle, 2008; Coleman, 2012). While somewhat valuable, the general questions on “favourable views,” “confidence,” or “trust” provide nothing more than a general sense of the public’s satisfaction with the police. More specific questions need to be asked in order to understand what it is that the citizens are satisfied or dissatisfied with when it comes to the police service.
Police Performance Measurement
These actions might help to determine which public opinion indicators would best measure police performance. However, past research has shown that fear of crime in a community is not necessarily explained by actual rates of crime (Moore and Trajanowicz, 1988; Skogan and Hartnett, 1997). Fear of crime can result from perceptions of social disorder in neighbourhoods (e.g., public drunkenness, open prostitution, and noisy crowds of people).
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In the absence of valid, reliable, and standardized indicators, police services and policy makers will continue to ask different, sometimes vague questions that are not comparable. Such inconsistent measurement of police performance runs the risk of poorly evaluating the performance or police and policing policies and practices across Canada, leading to inefficient and ineffective policing and ultimately compromising the public safety of Canadians. In Canada, only one national survey administered by Statistics Canada asks six questions on police performance. The majority of Canadian municipal police services commission their own annual or bi-annual public opinion community surveys that include numerous general and specific police performance questions. However, the questions tend to be unstandardized, inconsistent, with varying response category thus making them incomparable across time and place. Maguire and Johnson attempted to combine the theory and research from the four backgrounds and create unique indicators of citizens’ perceptions of police.