Survey on Citizen Perception of Police

Dennis Longmire

During the summer and fall of 2008, the Survey Research Program completed a Citizen Impression Survey for the Houston Police Department (HPD). Drs. Longmire, Zhao, and Lawton worked closely with the Houston Police Department's Executive Assistant Chief Timothy Oettmeier to construct a survey instrument designed to provide the HPD leadership with information on the citizens' impressions of police services. The instrument included 70 items focusing on citizens' general impressions of the Department's officers and their satisfaction with the Departments' delivery of a variety of services ranging from traffic law enforcement to the response to mental health consumers. Also included were questions focusing on a series of topics of special concern to the HPD such as the use of "red light cameras," "Homeland Security cameras," and Conducted Energy Devices (Tasers).

The sample included 1,250 Houston-area residents 18 years of age or older between May 1 and June 3, 2008, who agreed to participate in the survey. All respondents were selected for inclusion in the study through the use of random digit dialing (RDD) methodologies, and data were collected via computer- assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) technology. Additionally, respondents within bilingual or Spanish-only speaking households were provided with the opportunity to complete the interview in Spanish, thus ensuring that respondents from this population subgroup were provided with ample opportunity to respond.

Houston residents have an overwhelmingly positive image of the Houston Police Department's officers. Over 70% of the respondents either "strongly agreed" or "agreed" that HPD officers are honest (70.6%) and fair (70.2%) in their interactions with citizens. The great majority of the respondents to the survey either strongly agreed or agreed that the Houston Police officers are hard working (80.3%) and well trained (71%). The most persistent statistically significant sub-group differences are found across the different age and ethnic groups examined. Women were also more likely than men to report favorable attitudes about HPD's services.

In addition to submitting the Final Report to HPD, Longmire, Zhao, and Lawton are working on several publications for submission to scholarly journals and are currently in the process of designing a second survey for HPD that will employ stratified sampling techniques to better represent Hispanic respondents.

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