Research Briefs

Improving Police-Minority Relations: The Out-of-Car Experience

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

In the wake of a significant increase in officer deaths from violent attacks and unceasing criticism by media outlets, political figures and other groups in 2016, citizen satisfaction and confidence in the police in America has actually rebounded from a pattern of decline that has been going on since the early 1970s. In 1968, Gallup Poll data showed 78% of Americans had “a great deal” of confidence and satisfaction with their local police. Since that year, confidence and satisfaction in the police has declined, bottoming out at 47% satisfaction in 2015. In the latter half of 2016, however, citizen satisfaction and confidence in the police rebounded, with 76% of Americans indicating that they had “a great deal” of confidence in the police as of October, 2016.

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Inconsistent Employee Discipline

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Have you ever tried to suspend or terminate an employee for a serious act of misconduct, only to have this discipline reversed by a judge or grievance arbitrator? If so, you are not alone. Current research reveals that 5 out of 10 public employees are successful in having their discipline overturned when challenging their employers at arbitration or in court.
To address this issue, the Dolan Consulting Group recently conducted an analysis of more than 500 cases of public employee suspensions and terminations that went on to review by some form of outside arbitrator. These cases came from police departments, fire departments, sheriff departments, transportation departments, public works departments, county highways departments, airports, prisons, and parks & recreation departments. In approximately 50% of the cases, the outside arbitrator reversed or reduced the employer’s discipline, reinstating the
employee back to work. In our analysis, we examined the justifications these arbitrators gave for their decisions, finding that arbitrators often gave multiple reasons for overturning an employer’s discipline. The most common reason the arbitrators cited for overturning a public employee’s suspension or termination was inconsistent discipline.

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What Effects do School Resource Officers Have on Schools?

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Over the last two years there has been a small, but very vocal, segment of the U.S. population that has raised concerns in opposition to having law enforcement officers permanently assigned to schools as school resource officers (SROs). Those in opposition to school resource officers have claimed that assigning officers to schools has resulted in youths being formally arrested for minor conduct issues that would have otherwise been handled informally by school staff if the SROs had not been present in the school. They have suggested that SROs have resulted in thousands of children being marked for life with criminal records for behaviors that previously would only have resulted in minor in-school discipline. They claim that the presence of SROs in schools has contributed to the disproportionate confinement of minority youth because they are disproportionately assigned to schools in minority neighborhoods, and that by arresting minority youth for minor offenses, it gives them a criminal record that will follow them the rest of their lives. In sum, many argue that police officers in schools are responsible for a “school to prison pipe line ”.

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Biased-Based Policing Reports Are Failing the Police and the Community

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Recent public opinion surveys have revealed that the vast majority of Americans believe that use of racial profiling by the police is widespread.1 This is deeply disturbing for two reasons. First, it is disturbing because it undermines police legitimacy among the vast majority of our citizens. Second, it is disturbing because the vast majority of law enforcement officers I have known do not engage in bias-based policing. While racial profiling likely occurs among a small number of individual officers acting outside the bounds of their oath to uphold the Constitution, it is unlikely that racial profiling is systemic to law enforcement in the United States.

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Getting Rid of Bad Apples: Winning at Arbitration

By Dr. Richard Johnson

Research has repeatedly revealed that a very few individuals commit the vast majority of the serious misconduct experienced within public agencies—from law enforcement to the fire service to public schools. For example, one study in Chicago found that only 4.5% of elementary school teachers and administrators were responsible for the falsification of the standardized test scores of more than 19,000 students.1 Studies of sexual misconduct by grade school teachers and public university professors have estimated that between 4% and 7% of educators account for all cases of sexual misconduct against students.

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Why Officer Demeanor Matters

By Richard R. Johnson, Ph.D.

One could easily argue that the field of law enforcement is currently experiencing a legitimacy crisis in the United States. Gallup Poll data, the most reliable source of data we have, has shown that for the last several years, citizen confidence in their local police has been rather low. In the first quarter of 2016, only 58% of persons surveyed indicated that they had confidence in their local police. When asking only African-Americans, only 28% indicated that they had confidence in their local police. Compare this to 1968 when 77% of all Americans had confidence in their local police. Today, 40% of whites, and 73% of African-Americans believe that the police treat blacks and Hispanics less fairly than they do whites. Furthermore, 44% of all Americans currently rate the honesty and ethical standards of police officers as “low” or “very low.” Clearly about half of Americans have less than favorable opinions of the police today, and these negative attitudes are even stronger among African-Americans.

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Developing Organizational Performance Leadership