Research Briefs

Biased-Based Policing Reports Are Failing the Police and the Community

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Recent public opinion surveys have revealed that the vast majority of Americans believe that use of racial profiling by the police is widespread.1 This is deeply disturbing for two reasons. First, it is disturbing because it undermines police legitimacy among the vast majority of our citizens. Second, it is disturbing because the vast majority of law enforcement officers I have known do not engage in bias-based policing. While racial profiling likely occurs among a small number of individual officers acting outside the bounds of their oath to uphold the Constitution, it is unlikely that racial profiling is systemic to law enforcement in the United States.

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Getting Rid of Bad Apples: Winning at Arbitration

By Dr. Richard Johnson

Research has repeatedly revealed that a very few individuals commit the vast majority of the serious misconduct experienced within public agencies—from law enforcement to the fire service to public schools. For example, one study in Chicago found that only 4.5% of elementary school teachers and administrators were responsible for the falsification of the standardized test scores of more than 19,000 students.1 Studies of sexual misconduct by grade school teachers and public university professors have estimated that between 4% and 7% of educators account for all cases of sexual misconduct against students.

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Why Officer Demeanor Matters

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

One could easily argue that the field of law enforcement is currently experiencing a legitimacy crisis in the United States. Gallup Poll data, the most reliable source of data we have, has shown that for the last several years, citizen confidence in their local police has been rather low. In the first quarter of 2016, only 58% of persons surveyed indicated that they had confidence in their local police. When asking only African-Americans, only 28% indicated that they had confidence in their local police. Compare this to 1968 when 77% of all Americans had confidence in their local police. Today, 40% of whites, and 73% of African-Americans believe that the police treat blacks and Hispanics less fairly than they do whites. Furthermore, 44% of all Americans currently rate the honesty and ethical standards of police officers as “low” or “very low.” Clearly about half of Americans have less than favorable opinions of the police today, and these negative attitudes are even stronger among African-Americans.

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Reducing Fear of Crime and Increasing Citizen Support for Police

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Extensive research has shown that citizen satisfaction with the police is influenced by their perceptions about neighborhood crime and disorder. Numerous studies have found that citizens had lower overall satisfaction and confidence in the police when they had higher levels of fear of crime in their neighborhood and higher perceptions of neighborhood disorder (such as trash, graffiti, abandoned cars, loud music, loitering homeless people, etc.). Perceptions of crime, however, do not always match actual levels of crime. For example, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, both property and violent crime declined steadily from the 1990s through 2013.1 National survey data from the Gallup organization, however, reveals that fear of crime among Americans steadily increased during the same period. While actual crime has decreased, perception of the amount of crime increased.

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Dispelling the Myths Surrounding Police Use of Lethal Force

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Over the last three years there has been growing concern in the public discourse about the use of force, especially lethal force, by the police in the United States. This concern spawned the creation of the Black Lives Matter organization and motivated President Obama to organize a commission on policing in the 21st century. Concerns over several highly publicized and politicized deaths of African-American men by police use of force have produced numerous public protests in almost every city, town, and university in the nation.

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Threats To Surviving This Job

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Law enforcement is one of the most difficult, stressful, and dangerous careers an individual can pursue. The threats to your life, however, come from more sources than the knives and guns of evil doers. In fact, less than 20% of the law enforcement officers who died over the last three years died as a result of an assault.

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Developing Organizational Performance Leadership