POLL RESULTS ON PERCEPTIONS OF LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
One of the key goals of our local Safe Community Plan is strengthening community involvement in crime prevention efforts and improving community relations with law enforcement. As part of implementing this part of the plan, Artemis “Peppa” Williams is taking the lead in trying to ramp up community involvement in MPD’s Old Allen and Tillman precincts through such steps as recruiting more citizens as leaders of neighborhood watch groups.
Any effort to increase community involvement in crime prevention depends heavily on the degree of public confidence in local law enforcement. The Crime Commission recently retained the services of Public Opinion Strategies to conduct a professional poll to determine public perceptions of local law enforcement. The poll was conducted July 26-28 and included 450 registered voters, with 294 being registered voters in Memphis and the rest outside the Memphis city limits. The ethnic/racial breakdown countywide was 48% white, 46% African American, and 6% other/refused to say. For Memphis voters polled, the ethnic/racial breakdown was 53% African American, 40% white, and 7% other/refused to say. (For age and gender breakdown, see the full report at www.memphiscrime.org.)
We retained Public Opinion Strategies because it has a track record of accurate polling in the Memphis/Shelby County community.
Across the board, respondents expressed overwhelming support for local law enforcement, with 95% indicating they respected local law enforcement. That percentage went down some when respondents were asked about the job the police were doing in their specific neighborhood, with 71% saying they were doing an excellent or good job – still pretty high. There was a racial gap, though, with 56% of African Americans giving a positive rating for neighborhood policing compared to 85% of white voters.
Every key subgroup strongly endorsed more resources for local law enforcement. A strong 78% supported the hiring of more police officers, with both African American and white respondents at the same high level. And a high percentage of African Americans wanted an increased police presence in their neighborhood – 74% compared to 65% of white respondents.
While strongly respecting local law enforcement, wanting more police hired, and wanting more police presence in their neighborhood, many African American respondents saw a need for improvement in some specific areas. Only 43% of African American respondents felt the police were doing an excellent or good job protecting people from violent crime compared to 70% of white respondents. And only 36% of African American respondents felt the police were doing an excellent or good job of not using excessive force on suspects compared to 66% of whites. So, there’s room for improvement in how African Americans feel about efforts to curb violent crime and, the other side of the coin, how suspects get treated.
At its last meeting, the Memphis City Council voted 7-6 to remove from the November 3 ballot a referendum to amend the city of Memphis charter to allow Memphis police officers (and fire fighters) to live outside of Memphis or Shelby County but within 50 miles of the city limits. Such a charter amendment would mean that individuals who live in Southaven, West Memphis, or Oakland could become Memphis police officers without moving. A majority of the City Council voted to take the referendum off the ballot despite the fact that the poll showed 77% of Memphis respondents wanted it on the ballot. That sentiment crossed racial lines, with 74% of African Americans supporting placement of the referendum on the ballot and 80% of white respondents.
For more detailed information on the results of the poll, go to www.memphiscrime.org.
Bill Gibbons, President
Memphis Shelby Crime Commission