Public Opinion Survey of JSO Released

February 03, 2017  
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Report Shows:
93% Approval of Body-Worn Cameras for Officers

88% Feel Safe in Their Neighborhoods

JACKSONVILLE, FL (February 3, 2017) - In an in-depth public opinion poll of community attitudes about policing in Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office earned high approval ratings in serveral critically important areas, the agency announced today.

With respect to police performance, city wide, 78% of Duval residents approve of how the agency handles its job. 
 
Other significant results show:
  • 88% of Duval County residents feel safe in their neighborhood
  • Overall, 70% of residents agree that Jacksonville is a safe place to live, with 56% of residents polled saying that people ‘think their concerns about crime or public safety in Jacksonville are about the same they would have no matter where they lived.’ (Another 23-28% saying their concerns about public safety would be greater if they lived somewhere else.)
  • When it comes to handling complex investigations, 68% of residents think JSO does a good job
  • 60% of respondents think that JSO is responsible with taxpayer money and allocates its resources well
When asked about body cameras, researchers commented on the 93% of respondents supporting the practice; “the support in Duval County for the use of body cameras is unequivocal” and noted almost no variation across patrol zones.
 
“I am not surprised we have this level of support of our plan to have a body-worn camera program at JSO. As I talk to people in the community I hear nothing but support for the idea,” he said.
 
Some questions and their answers have been identified by Sheriff Williams as areas where the agency faces challenges and can do better, citing a larger than acceptable difference in responses to the questions based on race:
  • When asked the question: “In your encounters with JSO personnel, you find them to be courteous and competent,” overall satisfaction is 79%. White residents “agree strongly” at 61%, but among black respondents to the question only 35% agreed “strongly.”
“That gap in citizen satisfaction by race is not acceptable. Researchers asked those who were not satisfied why, and I am digging into the responses. Some of this appears to be simple things such as rudeness, or being perceived as arrogant or unfriendly. That behavior, whether real or perceived, can change an encounter with a citizen from a simple one to one that is confrontational,” Williams said.
 
Most residents (61%) think JSO does a good job investigating officer-involved shootings, but the Sheriff noted the 24% of respondents in the black community who strongly disagreed.
 
More than half of residents (57%) agree that JSO does a good job of following up on all allegations of police misconduct with competent administrative and/or criminal investigations, but again, a higher number of black residents “strongly disagree” at 21% versus 6% and 5% in the white and Hispanic communities, respectively.
 
“We are now developing, for our website, a portal of information that will share documents such as the outcomes of the Response to Resistance Board hearings; reports on Officers Use of Force; and other data about discipline.
 
This will contribute to my goal of enhanced transparency and address the fact that more than 30% of the population, in every sector of the city, doesn’t think we report back to the public very well on this issue or they don’t know enough about it.
 
We will take on the challenge of moving the needle with the citizens who do not approve of our performance, specifically on those two dimensions,” the Sheriff said. 
 
Other results of the poll include:
  • The vast majority of the total sample (73%) believes that JSO needs more funding and 55% believe the agency needs more officers.
  • With a follow up question outlining the projected cost of the body camera program, with the option of using the money to hire more officers, a majority of residents (56%) answered “Do both.”
Commenting on the survey, in general, Sheriff Williams said “It has been a very long time since such an in-depth study into the attitudes and opinions of our residents has been conducted, and I thought it was critically important for several reasons:
  • Our zone commanders have a large responsibility and I hold them accountable for understanding and addressing the issues and the people in their zones. Giving them a gauge of what our citizen-customers are thinking is important if they are to succeed. We are a diverse and unique community, with every neighborhood and sector having its own challenges and opportunities to enhance police-citizen relationships. This is an excellent organizational baseline study for my staff to use and to try and move the needle on specific areas, for people in every neighborhood in Jacksonville.
  • As an agency, we are going to do this every couple of years. It is an essential companion to the results of the recommendations from the Strategic Initiative’s four Task Forces. That was a thorough qualitative analysis of police-community issues. Now I have some numbers to qualify those recommendations, enabling us to move forward strategically and purposefully. I feel like in the past 15 months we have had some amazingly productive conversations with the community. This kind of exercise is critical to that ongoing conversation.”
The academic research study was conducted by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory, November 14 - December 12, 2016. It did not include the beaches areas, as they are not a primary service area of the agency. The cost was $35,000. A link to the entire survey is available by clicking here*, or going to jaxsheriff.org and clicking on the PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY RESULTS link.
 
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