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UCR Releases Statewide Survey On Citizen Attitudes Toward Police

UCR Releases Statewide Survey On Citizen Attitudes Toward Police

(February 23, 2000)

A statewide opinion survey released today by the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at UCR shows that 57 percent of African Americans in California say that police excessive use of force is a problem in their neighborhood, compared to 40 percent of Latinos and 20 percent of whites.

That kind of racial divide is just one of many interesting findings in a wide-ranging survey about how Californians feel about police officers, said Robert Nash Parker, director of the Presley Center and a professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside.

Parker and Ph.D. candidate Valerie J. Callanan analyzed an opinion survey about crime and justice issues compiled by the Social and Behavioral Research Institute, at California State University, San Marcos.

Questions included how well police protect the public from crime, how fair police officers are, whether excessive use of force is a problem in the neighborhood, and the importance of civilian review boards.

The UCR analysis grouped the responses of 4,225 Californians contacted between March and September of 1999 by geographic region: Los Angeles County, the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, the Central Valley, San Diego, and the Inland Empire. They also a nalyzed subsets of whites, African Americans and Latinos, because those samples were large enough to be representative of the population at large.

"In general there was little difference between the Inland Empire sub-sample and Californians in general, but there are some interesting differences by race and ethnicity," Parker said.

For instance, 20 percent of white Californians and 25 percent of white respondents from the Inland Empire believe that excessive use of force by police is somewhat of a problem or a very serious problem in their neighborhood. That figure rose to 40 percent of Latinos in California, or 46 percent of Latinos in the Inland Empire. A majority of African-Americans, or 57 percent, believed the same thing, a figure that was the same in the Inland Empire as in the state as a whole.

"I expected it to be higher in the Inland Empire than in the state as a whole, because of the controversy over Tyisha Miller, but it appears that a majority of African Americans statewide are concerned about this issue, Parker said.

Again, despite the turmoil surrounding the Miller shooting, the vast majority of Inland Empire residents believe that police officers will protect them from crime, and will do so in a somewhat fair or very fair manner.

For example, 79 percent of whites and African-Americans in Riverside and San Bernardino counties had some or a great deal of confidence in the ability of law enforcement to protect them from crime; while 76 percent of Latinos in the Inland Empire said the same thing.

"Taken together, the results of these questions suggest that the police in the Inland Empire still have a great deal of support, even from people of color, despite the Tyisha Miller case and all the conflict between the police, the City of Riverside," Par ker said.

The survey also addressed the question of how important civilian review boards were to California citizens. In this case, 90 percent or more of all those surveyed ranked civilian review boards as either somewhat or very important.

In the Inland Empire, 59 percent of whites said it was very important and another 31 percent said it was somewhat important. Among Latinos, 70 percent said it was very important and 23 percent said somewhat important. Seventy-five percent of African Americans in the Inland Empire ranked a civilian police review board as very important. Another 21 percent said it was somewhat important.

"Among all three groups, inside and out of the Inland Empire, 90 percent or more of the respondents said it was somewhat or very important to have public review of police conduct," Parker said. "Despite that, a majority of California communities have no effective public review of police conduct in place," Parker said.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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