Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation
Sociology (Applied), PhD
Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)
walking patrol; perception; police culture; community oriented policing
For a police department to provide efficient and effective services to the community, they must obtain the support of the public, continuously cultivating and maintaining positive perceptions from the citizens being served. Various methods, such as walking patrols, have been implemented to increase public support and trust in police, which, in turn, contributes to a cooperative relationship between community and law enforcement. When opinions of law enforcement are precarious or police departments fall out of favor with the surrounding community, police officers can feel isolated if their work is unsupported. This often leads to the development of a strong bond or police culture between law enforcement officers based on shared experiences, attitudes, and interactions with others. The symbiotic relationship between police and the public is at the core of community policing, which has the aim of reforming cultural norms and decision-making practices within law enforcement. While a substantial amount of literature exists on both the relationship between public perception of law enforcement and community relations as well as police culture, there is limited research on the intersection of these areas. This case study examines the efficacy of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) walking patrol initiative in Louisville, Kentucky, which was piloted between April and September 2019. The LMPD walking patrol initiative focuses on the interconnectivity between public perception of law enforcement and the police perception of public opinion as well as how this affects community policing efforts. It sought to increase police visibility, informal contacts between police and community members, and overall communications with the public. The desired outcomes were to improve perception of crime, produce better trained officers, and grow citizen satisfaction with the overall goal of improved community relations. This research is important for assisting the LMPD in evaluating this initiative, determining whether or not the effort and manpower should be continued, and how it impacted community relationships. To adequately address the complexities of this topic, this research employed a mixed methods approach, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods to address several hypotheses. A survey was distributed, and the data were analyzed using ordinal logistic regression, multinomial linear regression, and negative binomial regression. Qualitative methods included participant observation, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews and the data were analyzed using Dedoose coding software. This research hypothesized the following: perceptions of the police, personal safety, and crime will improve for community members within the walking patrol area; foot patrol officers will have a more positive perception of community opinions of law enforcement than vehicle patrol officers; and police officers with more informal law enforcement interactions will have higher job satisfaction. As data were analyzed, unexpected yet important themes related to police culture emerged. Using a grounded theoretical approach, information related to this topic were incorporated into the results and contributions of this research. Although the LMPD walking patrol initiative did not have a significant change on crime rates in the area, it did have significant findings in relation to community members’ perception of crime and disorder, fear of crime, and police legitimacy. It was found to have positive effects on community members’ perception of police characteristics and activities. The walking patrol officers were found to have a more positive perception of public opinion and an increased level of community engagement. This research also found the walking patrol officers lacked a connection to the current police culture, which is critical information for departments seeking ways to redevelop social learning in law enforcement. Although a walking patrol is not the singular response to establish cooperative community relations between law enforcement and citizens or improve police cultural norms, this research shows it can influence community engagement, increase legitimacy, decrease the fear of crime, and impact police culture. This case study provided significant contributions to the literature, specifically on community policing and patrol techniques, and has provided valuable information regarding training, communication, and officer and community perceptions.
Hall, Jennifer Lee, "The sidewalk less traveled: evaluating change in community and police perception." (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 3522.