Twenty-four years after being named an Outstanding Graduate Student at Washington State University (WSU), Jihong Solomon Zhao returned to his alma mater to accept the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.
“It felt very good after 24 years,” said Dr. Zhao. “It’s a recognition of my academic achievements.”
Dr. Solomon ZhaoDr. Zhao did his graduate work at WSU, earning a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1994. While at WSU, he earned that Best Graduate Student Award from the Department of Political Science and was part of the Fulbright Program at the Center for American Studies at Shanghai International Studies University.
After graduation, Dr. Zhao served as Senior Research Analyst for the Bureau of Research at the Ohio Department of Corrections and was a professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He joined the faculty of Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice in 2007. Dr. Zhao has authored, co-authored, or edited three books on community policing and contemporary policing issues and published dozens of articles in such refereed journals as Justice Quarterly, Journal of Criminal Justice, Police Quarterly, and Crime and Delinquency.
Dr. Zhao’s research interests focus on police organization with particular emphasis on organizational change, culture, individual behavior and values, and community policing implementation.
During his award presentation at Washington State University, Dr. Zhao shared his research with students. His guest lecture was entitled “Public Attitudes toward the Police: An Enduring Theme with New Frontiers.”
Over the last 40 years, the issue of public attitudes toward police have been heavily researched. Traditionally, studies have taken three forms: demographic models, police contact/accountability models, and the neighborhood/contextual models. Demographic models examine variables, such as race/ethnicity, age, gender, income, and type of residence, with race consistently being found as the most significant predictor of public attitudes.
In police contact and accountability, studies measure victimization, police contacts experience, fear of crime, and perceptions of disorder and levels of crime in neighborhoods. In neighborhood/contextual models, the studies examine collective efficacy, social integration and the disadvantage index and found that efficacy – that is helping neighbors and the willingness to intervene – is a strong predictor of public attitudes.
Dr. Zhao suggests these studies can be expanded to provide a clearer picture of public attitudes toward police by adding new dimensions, including geo-mapping and culture.
In one study with the Houston Police Department, Dr. Zhao used GPS models to compare public perceptions about police based on crime, census and patrol car tracking data. In another study, Dr. Zhao studies the impact of attitudes toward the criminal justice system by studying confidence in police\e and the courts in different cultures.
The study compared public attitudes in the U.S. (Judaism-Christianity), Turkey (Muslim), and Taiwan (Confucianism). He is also using culture and attachment to predict public attitudes toward police in juveniles in the U.S. and China.
“After 40 years of research, research into public attitudes toward police has made great leaps in the quality of the data collected and the research methods,” said Dr. Zhao. “The new areas that can be studied include dimensionality and the use of geo code data. We also found, with changing technology, studies should include both landline and wireless samples and focus on longitudinal data.”