Michigan surveys focus on police-community relations
While local leaders say police forces across
Michigan have good overall relations with their communities, those in larger
cities worry about the possibility of civil unrest after well-publicized incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.
In Michigan cities with more than 30,000 residents, 64 percent of local leaders are somewhat or very concerned about potential civil unrest and only 10 percent are "not at all concerned," according to a University of Michigan survey of the state's local government leaders.
Statewide, 57 percent of local leaders are "not at
all concerned" that a major incident of civil unrest
connected to police use-of-force could happen in their jurisdiction in the near future, while 32 percent are not
very concerned. Those in 8 percent of jurisdictions are somewhat concerned that an incident could occur, and just 2 percent are very concerned.
Police-community relations have been on the
minds of many government leaders, law enforcement
officers, policy analysts, citizens, community activists and others since August 2014 when a white police officer in Ferguson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and civil unrest ensued. In April 2015, the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore further inflamed tense relations in
communities across the nation.
Other key findings from the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) include:
•The heightened concern in large cities is related to population density, increased racial diversity and
self-reported recent incidents of inappropriate use-of-force by law enforcement (reported in 12 percent of Michigan's large cities compared to 4 percent of all jurisdictions statewide).
•Large cities are more likely than other jurisdictions to have policies and practices in place to minimize
police-community tensions such as citizen task forces and mandating independent
investigations into officer-involved shootings.
•Dashboard and body cameras are also more prevalent in large cities.
•Many (48 percent) local officials support their local law enforcement agency acquiring military equipment, while 20 percent oppose this.
•Looking beyond cities, Michigan's local leaders have relatively balanced attitudes on the question of ensuring privacy versus security through the use of surveillance technology. They
are more likely to support than oppose the presence of military equipment within local law enforcement, a potential trigger of increased tension with residents.
MPPS surveys were sent from Oct. 5-Dec. 8, 2015, via hard copy and the Internet to elected and appointed
officials in Michigan. A total of 1,418 jurisdictions
returned valid surveys, a 76-percent response rate. The margin of error was 1.3 percent.
February 24, 2016