Last week, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (of which I am a member) released the results of its first-ever survey of citizen attitudes toward the police. Although the survey identified a few areas of concern, the overall tenor of citizen attitudes seems positive.
Conducted for the FPC by UWM’s Center for Urban Initiatives & Research last summer, the survey involved telephone interviews of 1,452 Milwaukee residents. As detailed in the CUIR’s report, the survey respondents were reflective of the city’s diversity in racial composition and in other respects.
The report’s lead finding is that about three-quarters of Milwaukee residents report that they are at least somewhat satisfied with the Milwaukee Police Department, while only about nine percent said they were “not at all satisfied.” These findings are notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that fully one-quarter of the respondents reported being stopped by the police in the past year. One might suppose that this group would be predisposed to negative evaluations of the police. However, the vast majority (71%) of those stopped felt that they were treated fairly. The MPD has significantly increased its number of stops in recent years, but it does not appear that involuntary contact with the police normally leads to hard feelings by the person stopped.
Given recent racial tensions in Milwaukee and nationally regarding policing practices, it is especially important to note the racial patterns in survey responses. Read the rest of this entry »