This study explored whether researchers probing citizens’ attitudes toward police should distinguish between global assessments versus neighborhood assessments of police.
In the wake of growing public and governmental pressure to improve police relations with citizens and reduce police misconduct, researchers have turned their attention to measuring citizens’ attitudes toward the police. Most of this research focuses on citizens’ global assessments of the police, utilizing national sampling survey methods that contain broad questions about perceptions of satisfaction or confidence in the police. These studies, however, assume that citizens have the same attitude toward “the police” as they do toward “my neighborhood police.” The current study focused on whether researchers need to differentiate between global perceptions of the police in general versus more individualized perceptions of neighborhood police. Data were gathered from a 2002 telephone survey conducted in Chicago on minority confidence in the police. The 344 participants were selectively sampled from a citywide survey sample used to evaluate a different community policing initiative. Measures included race and ethnicity, general attitudes toward the police, and neighborhood-specific attitudes toward the police. Results of structural equation modeling indicated significant support for differentiating between global and neighborhood-specific attitudes toward police. Specific results by race are presented. Future research should focus on the impact of citizens’ existing stereotypes of the police on their subsequent evaluations of police encounters. Tables, figures, appendixes, references