The results of a recent Gallup poll showed 58% of Americans believe major changes are needed to make policing better.
Another Gallup survey showed confidence in police has fallen five points, to 48%, from the previous year. It’s the first time the result was less than a majority; Gallup began asking the question in 1993.
These surveys were taken this summer, amid all sorts of national unrest. At approximately the same time, the Grand Forks Police Department Citizen Survey – undertaken every two years – was being conducted locally. Yet as so many people nationwide express concern and disdain about police, the local police department’s survey showed overwhelmingly positive results.
● 69% gave a score of 5 to the competence, behavior and attitudes of GFPD employees with whom they interacted. Only 4% answered that question with a grade of 1.
● 65% ranked the overall performance of the police department at 5, while only about 3% ranked it at 1.
● Those who gave a score of 5 for overall satisfaction rose 12 points from the last survey, in 2018.
● Approximately 49% of respondents gave a 5 to how safe they feel living in Grand Forks, compared to about 3% who answered with a 1. The number of respondents who answered with a 5 increased from 32% in 2018.
● 940 people took the survey, nearly double the number of respondents from 2018.
Grand Forks residents should be proud. This survey could have been hijacked by feelings about police departments nationwide, especially as the tumult of the summer was reaching its zenith.
For the local department to receive such high marks amid the dark clouds associated with police work – the local survey opened just five days after the George Floyd death in Minneapolis – is a true bright spot for the community.
Now, the department must work to not only continue this streak of success but to further it with improvements.
● The survey apparently only was presented to the public via the GFPD website and social media channels. That could indicate that the survey is weighted by people who already “like” – in the social media sense – the department. In the future, the GFPD should work harder to ensure the survey is distributed widely and seen by a more diverse audience.
● Speaking of diversity, the GFPD should seek demographic information from respondents, including age, race, gender and income level. That would help clarify how local police are serving the community as a whole.
● Even after surveys that show high satisfaction, the department should focus on certain critical comments – even the good surveys come with some criticism – and take trackable action to address them. The department also should be very public about it, since the public deserves to know action plans that could bring change.
The GFPD deserves credit and a hearty “good job” from its constituents. Now, it’s important to not let this or future surveys become an exercise in self-validation, but rather a measurable tool that can be used to create the absolute best possible police force in Grand Forks.