CEDAR RAPIDS — Many residents are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s performance and their interactions with officers, a new survey shows.
The data, compiled from responses of 613 city residents, showed that 73 percent surveyed reported they were generally satisfied or very satisfied with the police department. And, when asked about their satisfaction with the services provided in their individual neighborhoods, 67 percent rated their experiences positively.
Respondents were contacted using voter registrations, said Chad Loes, a professor of criminal justice at Mount Mercy University. Loes, who conducted the survey and compiled the responses, was approached by the police department last fall.
Surveys were sent to 4,455 registered voters, Loes said, and 640 were returned, 27 of which were eliminated because they were incomplete.
And despite what Loes characterized as a low response rate, the professor said the pool that did respond was fairly representative of the city’s population, with 27 percent of respondents being more than 60 years old, 92 percent of respondents being white, 55 percent being female and 55 percent having a bachelor’s degree or higher.
A breakdown of the city’s population showed 15 percent of residents were age 65 or older, 86 percent were white, 55 percent were female and 32 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“So, our sample was a little bit older and a little more educated, but in terms of gender and race, the breakdowns of our sample pool and the city’s demographics are pretty similar to one another,” Loes said.
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That said, the small sample size did prove to be an issue when breaking down the responses by ethnicity, Loes said.
“I wasn’t able to break down racial groups very well,” he said. “I just had to lump it into minorities and non-minorities, instead of breaking the respondents down into each individual group.”
And the data showed a few differences in opinions between the two groups.
According to the survey, minority respondents had a less favorable view of the police department than Caucasian respondents.
Roughly 25 percent of minority residents, according to the data, reported they were either dissatisfied with the police department or felt neutral. Additionally, “respondents who were crime victims and those who are minorities had less positive attitudes toward the police,” the survey said.
“And this is something we find consistently on a national level,” Loes said, adding, however, that the “attitudes among minorities in Cedar Rapids are better than national average.”
Another contributing factor to a person’s attitude toward police appeared to be influenced by the interactions that person had with officers.
“We noticed that when it comes to contact with the police, that interaction tends to increase positive attitudes,” Loes said. “But what I wanted to look at is does that differ by one’s race?”
It does, he said.
“What I found was that minorities who have had contact with police tend to have less positive attitudes, while whites who have had contact tend to adopt more positive attitudes. And again, this isn’t anything new or shocking by any means. But it gives you a glimpse of what’s going on.”
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Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said he found the survey responses to be encouraging, but also recognized there still is room to improve.
“Reading those responses was something that was meaningful,” he said. “And to me it validates that this is a very good police department. I think the citizens appreciate service center getting.”
That said, the chief acknowledged there is always room for improvement.
“We’re going to use everything that we’ve learned through this survey,” he said. “Are we perfect? No. And I don’t think any police departments are perfect, but we want to get better, and this is one avenue that we can use to get better.”
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