Understanding Citizen Perceptions: How Police Behavior and Community Influence Resident Satisfaction with Police



Azam, Muneeba

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The way that law enforcement interacts with residents has been at the forefront of media scrutiny. The police, or street level bureaucrats, are often the most visible representation of a community and are afforded a plethora of discretion (Lipsky, 1980). However, their exercise of said discretion, or police behavior, varies greatly from one area to another. Gaining insight into how the police conduct their business is essential to better understand their roles as law enforcement officers in a particular area. Similarly, an effective police department relies on the assistance of active residents to help secure and regulate a community (Sargeant, 2017). Compliance and cooperation of residents depends upon how satisfied they may be with their local police. The primary focus of this study is to better understand how specific individuallevel variables relating to police behavior and community are associated with satisfaction with police and their services in Roanoke County, Virginia. While prior research has focused primarily on urban or suburban settings to explore community-police relations, I quantitatively analyze survey data from a unique suburban-rural setting to better explain how contact with authorities, procedural justice, and community context (specifically, collective efficacy, perception of neighborhood conditions, and residential stability) is associated with citizen satisfaction with local police and police services. Given the current social and political climate, there is severe strain on police-community relations. However, effective communication between the police and the citizens they serve can curb resentment and increase legitimacy. This mutually beneficial partnership can help address community concerns, assess police performance, and outline future needs that should be addressed.



Police, Community, Satisfaction with police, Citizen perceptions