'Passing', but Far from Perfect
Assessing Public Confidence in Police and Desire for Reform in Pennsylvania
Published in: Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice (2021). doi: 10.1093/police/paab077
With data collected from a representative sample of 522 Pennsylvania residents, this study measures public confidence in police and analyses public support for policing practices. Adopting a mixed-method approach, this study also analyses public desire for police reform and correlates of support for police reform. Findings reveal that participants expressed moderate levels of confidence in their local police, although confidence varied across racial groups. Despite this avowed confidence, participants also expressed desire for police reforms. The most supported reforms were those intended to increase officers' training on mental illness, substance use dependency, and de-escalation techniques; enhance officers' capabilities of handling critical incidents involving vulnerable populations; implement policing models that incorporate community input and oversight; and increase officer transparency and accountability. A key finding on police reform suggests that the racial divide in support for police reform is usefully informed by including, and not ignoring, significant generational, regional, and political divides. Policy implications based on these findings are discussed within.