Michelle Kobayashi is the senior survey scientist for National Research Center/Polco in Boulder, Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin. Her session “Key Drivers Influencing Trust in Local Law Enforcement” will take place on September 25, 2020, 5:00pm to 5:45pm ET.

Check out our Q & A with Michelle Kobayashi as she tells us more about presenting on this topic and what she hopes attendees will take away from the session.

What is motivating you to present on this topic?

Michelle Kobayashi: I have spent the last 30 years working to bring the voice of residents into local government decision making through surveys. When I first started surveying residents about local government performance, police departments often received some of the highest positive ratings on our surveys along with the fire department and libraries. Over time, I have watched the ratings of police on The National Community Survey™ (The NCS™) decline in a number of communities while ratings in other communities have remained quite high. At the same time, community safety scores on The NCS remain the highest priority of residents in nearly every community.

To dig deeper into the differences in police ratings, we developed The National Police Services Survey™ (The NPSS™) to better understand resident opinion on crime, satisfaction with police services, trust in law enforcement agencies, and public safety priorities. We collected data from a national panel of residents in 2018 and now again in 2020 and have found some really interesting trends. The goal of the survey is to help local governments work to become more community focused in their public safety service efforts.

What do you want the audience to take away? 

Michelle Kobayashi: National surveys always provide a wealth of knowledge. Some of the key takeaways from this presentation include:

  1.   While public perceptions of law enforcement are declining and disparities in police ratings by resident background (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender, age) are more evident than ever, our national benchmark data demonstrate that a majority of residents across the nation still rate their quality of their police positively. We also find that residents of all backgrounds have shared opinions on the public safety priorities in their communities.
  2.   Not all communities are experiencing the same breakdowns in the police-community relationships, but many communities are vulnerable. To maintain and/or strengthen these relationships, the first step is to bring residents into the conversation and understand where vulnerabilities may lie. It is through this collaboration that communities will create the strategies that foster cohesion and trust.
In your own words, what does this topic mean to you? 

Michelle Kobayashi: The topic of policing and its relationship to community equity and inclusion is important and timely. At a time when we are facing uncertainty in our health and safety as well as fractures to community cohesion, I appreciate the opportunity to bring local governments and their residents together to forge stronger, safer, more inclusive communities.

Do you have any “lessons learned” on this topic? 

Michelle Kobayashi: Resident perceptions of local government and law enforcement are not always in-line with other measures of community crime or police performance. Events in the past months have caused a definite downward shift.  Understanding what factors influence the perceptions of residents is key to choosing strategies to strengthen the police-community relationship.


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