Developing a Common Data Standard for Measuring Attitudes toward the Police in Canada

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By Chris Giacomantonio, Rebecca Mugford, Anton Maslov, and Austin Lawrence

Abstract

Currently, most police services in Canada conduct public attitude surveys on a regular basis; however, no two police services ask the same survey questions, and many police services vary their questions between surveys. These inconsistencies create problems of comparability between jurisdictions and within a given jurisdiction over time. What this means is that we do not currently have a clear picture of the Canadian public's attitudes toward police at the national, provincial, or local level. To achieve more consistent and valid measures of public attitudes toward the police in Canada, Public Safety Canada and Halifax Regional Police Service engaged in a series of research activities throughout 2017 and 2018. This paper discusses these activities and presents the recommended core indicators for measuring public attitudes toward the police in Canada. Implementation of this common data standard across Canada will facilitate a better local and national understanding of the public's perceptions of Canadian police. Police services that adopt this standard into their community surveys are encouraged to contact the authors of this report to discuss next steps toward sharing and developing data at a multijurisdictional and national level.

Author's Note

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Public Safety Canada. Correspondence concerning this report should be addressed to:

Research Division
Public Safety Canada
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P8
Email: PS.CSCCBResearch-RechercheSSCRC.SP@canada.ca

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the following organizations and individuals for their important contributions to this project: the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, particularly the Police Information and Statistics Committee (co-chairs at the time of undertaking this project: Mary Silverthorn and Rebecca Kong), the Ottawa Police Service (Cameron Hopgood), and the Calgary Police Service (Debi Perry, Kitt Chanthaboune, and Leslie MacRae-Krisa). The authors would also like to thank the expert panel members for their valuable contributions and guidance throughout the project, including: Ben Bradford, Terry Coleman, Jennie Gill, Jonathan Jackson, James Lea, Andrew Lejeune, Ed Maguire, and William Trask. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the research team alone.


Executive Summary

It is essential for police services to collect data on public attitudes toward the police, particularly since public attitudes predict a number of outcomes that are critical to the police mission in democratic societies. Currently, most police services in Canada conduct public attitude surveys on a regular basis; however, no two police services ask the same survey questions, and many police services vary their questions between surveys. These inconsistencies create problems of comparability between jurisdictions and within a given jurisdiction over time. What this means is that we do not have a clear picture of the Canadian public's attitudes toward police at the national, provincial, or local level.

Throughout 2017 and 2018, Public Safety Canada and Halifax Regional Police engaged in a series of research activities with the goal of achieving more consistent and valid measures of public attitudes toward the police in Canada. The end-product of these activities is a list of 12 indicators that police services in Canada can use to measure attitudes toward police in a consistent manner (see Appendix A).

Method

This project involved four main research phases, including: (1) convening an expert panel to identify preexisting measures that are believed to be central to capturing public attitudes toward the police; (2) selecting a subset of these measures for pilot testing; (3) conducting a pilot survey; and (4) analyzing the data and recommending a set of "core indicators" as a common data standard.

Phase 1: Expert Panel

The expert panel included four international academic experts with expertise in public attitude surveying, as well as four police service representatives from Canada. Panellists were asked: "if you could only ask 10 to 15 questions to gauge public attitudes toward the police, what would those questions be?" Panellists were also asked to provide a brief rationale, recommended response categories, and indicate whether the questions were previously validated.

A wide range of over 100 suggested questions were received from panel members. Most recommended questions tapped into dimensions of trust and confidence (51 items), followed by: perceived police effectiveness (31 items); perceptions of safety, crime, and disorder (28 items); contact with police and satisfaction with contact (14 items); legitimacy perceptions (10 items); propensity to cooperate with the police (7 items); and satisfaction (4 items).

Phase 2: Question Selection

Following the expert panel, the project team selected a subset of questions to inform future pilot testing. Where possible, the project team selected questions that were: (1) empirically validated in previous research; (2) theoretically supported; (3) proposed by multiple respondents; and (4) quantitative in nature. Questions were also assessed for clarity and construct representativeness to ensure that all dimensions of the core constructs were reflected in the questions.

Phase 3: Pilot Survey

In early 2018, Halifax Regional Police led a survey exercise with support from the Calgary Police Service and the Ottawa Police Service (N = 2,527). Using online survey panels, a minimum of 500 respondents from each of the following groups were targeted: Halifax Regional Municipality residents, Calgary area residents, Ottawa area residents, rural residents from across Canada, and those indicating that French is their first language.

Phase 4: Expert Data Analysis

In spring 2018, experts were commissioned to analyze the data from the pilot survey exercise to provide an empirically-informed recommendation for a set of 10-15 core indicators that could be used by police services in Canada to measure public attitudes toward the police (see Jackson and Bradford 2019).

Jackson and Bradford (2019) found good scaling properties in the survey items regardless of whether the survey was completed by French versus English respondents or rural versus urban respondents. This means that these questions are applicable across these demographic groups. They also found that the key tenets of procedural justice theory were supported by the data, paralleling the findings of previous research.

Based on their analyses, Jackson and Bradford (2019) recommended the 12 indicators listed in Appendix A as core indicators for measuring attitudes toward the police. We fully agree with the questions they have recommended. In addition to the core indicators, Jackson and Bradford (2019) recommended that surveys incorporate questions measuring key correlates of attitudes toward the police, including: demographics (e.g., gender identity, ethnic identity, age, income, rural/urban location); contact (self- and police-initiated); previous victimization; and perceived safety and disorder. These factors can be useful for explaining the variation observed in community members' attitudes in any given survey. Where possible, we encourage the use of the same questions used in this project (see Appendix E).

Survey Administration Recommendations and Conclusion

The core indicators have been endorsed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police as a common data standard for public attitude surveys on policing in Canada. These questions should be used in the order and with the response scales included in Appendix A – as the first five questions of any public attitude survey. Where necessary, the core indicators can be placed after demographic screening questions that are intended to ensure that respondents meet the survey eligibility criteria, but the core indicators should not be placed after other attitudinal measures. Police services that adopt this standard into their community surveys are encouraged to contact the Research Division at Public Safety Canada to discuss next steps toward sharing and developing data at a multijurisdictional and national level.

These indicators are not intended to replace all public attitude surveying conducted by or on behalf of police services. Rather, they are intended to be included as a small set of front-end 'core' indicators whenever a public attitude survey is undertaken, to ensure that key measures of public attitudes toward the police are collected regularly, in a consistent fashion, across police services in Canada. Implementation of this common data standard across Canada will allow us to develop a better local and national understanding of the public's perceptions of Canadian police.

Introduction

It is essential for police services to collect data on public attitudes toward the police, particularly since public attitudes predict a number of outcomes that are critical to the police mission in democratic societies (e.g., see Brandl et al. 1994; Jackson et al. 2012). Currently, most police services in Canada conduct public attitude surveys on a regular basis; however, no two police services ask the same survey questions, and many police services vary their questions between surveys. These inconsistencies create problems of comparability between jurisdictions and within a given jurisdiction over time. What this means is that we do not currently have a clear picture of the Canadian public's attitudes toward police at the national, provincial, or local level.

To achieve more consistent and valid measures of public attitudes toward the police in Canada, Public Safety Canada and Halifax Regional Police led a series of research activities throughout 2017 and 2018, which can be divided into four main research phases, including: (1) convening an expert panel to identify preexisting measures that are believed to be central to capturing public attitudes toward the police; (2) selecting a subset of these measures for pilot testing; (3) conducting a pilot survey; and (4) analyzing the data and recommending a set of "core indicators" as a common data standard. The methodology and results of each of these phases are described in the sections below. The recommended core indicators and their response scales are listed in Appendix A.

Phase 1: Expert Panel

Method

In the first phase of the project, an expert panel comprised of academic and applied researchers was convened. This panel included four international academic experts with expertise in public attitude surveying (Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States), as well as four police service representatives responsible for designing and implementing public attitude surveys at the service level in Canada.

The experts were provided with a brief asking them to respond to the following question:

If you could only ask 10 to 15 questions to gauge public attitudes toward police, what would those questions be?

For each question, panellists were asked to provide a brief rationale for their recommendation along with any supporting references, as well as recommended response categories. They were also asked to identify whether, to their knowledge, the suggested questions had been validated in prior surveys, and to propose additional indicators that could be used to support validity testing of their recommended indicators (see Appendix B for the full set of instructions provided to the expert panel).

Following receipt of the panellists' contributions, their responses were loaded into NVivo software for qualitative thematic analysis, and the proposed questions and their related rationales were divided into thematic groupings. Each project team member also reviewed each contribution and discussed the key themes that emerged amongst themselves.

Results

A wide range of over 100 suggested questions were received from panel members. Panellists proposed questions that were in use in Canada, the US, UK and EU, and other countries internationally, as well as some questions that were not already used in existing surveys, but panellists thought were important to ask on such surveys.

While no two panellists proposed precisely the same question wording, there was broad agreement on the areas that were most important to examine. The qualitative analysis of expert recommendations revealed seven general themes to their recommended questions (with the number in parentheses representing the number of panellists who proposed questions in this thematic areaNote1):

Each of these themes appeared in at least one academic and one police area expert's submissions, so no theme was only of interest to one or the other group within the panel. Many of these themes are interrelated; for example, perceptions of effectiveness may, in part, be considered judgements about trust (e.g., see Jackson et al. 2012); and questions about recent contact with police were almost always connected to questions about satisfaction with that contact (there were also proposed questions related to overall satisfaction, without reference to specific contacts).

The vast majority of recommended questions tapped into dimensions of trust and confidence, including procedural justice, distributive justice, respecting the limits of rightful authority, community engagement, and global or summary indicators of trust and confidence (51 items). This was followed by: perceived police effectiveness (31 items); perceptions of safety, crime, and disorder (28 items); contact with police and satisfaction with contact/quality of contact (14 items); legitimacy perceptions, including a moral duty to obey and normative alignment (10 items); propensity to cooperate with the police (7 items); and general satisfaction with the police (4 items).Note2 Although most of these items measured specific attitudes toward the police, other items, such as those related to contact with the police and perceptions of safety, crime and disorder, were seen as important explanatory variables that can be helpful to understand variation in attitudes toward the police.

Phase 2: Question Selection

Method

Following the expert panel, the project team selected a subset of the recommended questions to inform future pilot testing (phase 3). As suggested by many of the expert panellists and the general scale development literature (e.g., Furr 2011; Simms 2007), the first step in the item development (selection) process was to settle on working definitions for each of the constructs that were suggested by the experts as the most important to measure within the context of attitudes toward police (see Appendix C for a summary of all key attitudinal construct definitions). Next, the project team's approach to identifying questions to include in the pilot survey was guided by four related principles. The questions that would be suitable for pilot testing should be:

The goal was to select questions that had as many of the above characteristics as possible.Note6 In addition to these criteria, the selected questions needed to be easy to understand and clearly appear to tap into one of the defined constructs of interest. Initially selected items were then re-assessed collectively for construct representativeness (Kline 2005; Simms 2007). For example, we examined whether there were items included in the list that seemed to measure all of the important dimensions of 'trust' (e.g., procedural justice, distributive justice, community engagement, effectiveness).

For some of the main themes (e.g., trust and confidence theme), a considerable number of questions were provided that we deemed met the above criteria (i.e., 35 items). Given our goal of arriving at a limited set of questions while also attempting to balance construct representativeness, these items were then grouped by construct and re-evaluated for clarity, apparent redundancy, and practical relevance to police executives. This process was then repeated until a manageable subset of questions was reached for each construct. In some instances, to achieve consistency in language and structure between indicators within the proposed indicator set, minor wording changes were made from the indicators proposed by the panellists (for example, changing 'the police' to 'your local police', or changing the scale from 4- to 5-point).

Where questions were seen as more-or-less equally supported and/or justifiable for inclusion in the pilot phase, it was agreed by the project team that we would prefer those currently in place in one or more public attitudes surveys in Canada, but this parameter only served as a 'tie-breaker' rather than an essential characteristic of a good indicator for inclusion at this stage. Relatedly, in some instances, panellists proposed indicators that were very similar to indicators currently in use by the General Social Survey (GSS) in Canada, and we chose to recommend the similar GSS item rather than the expert-proposed item.

Results

'Trust in police' is a complex, multi-dimensional construct. As such, multiple indicators are required to adequately measure trust in police in any public opinion survey (Jackson et al. 2012).Note7  Out of the 51 recommended trust indicators, 28 were selected for pilot testing using the above criteria. These included measures of: procedural justice (12 items); bounded authority/respecting the limits of rightful authority (1 item); distributive justice (4 items); community engagement (4 items); perceived effectiveness (3 items); and global or summary measures for trust/confidence in police (4 items).Note8 For legitimacy perceptions, 3 items were selected, including 1 item reflecting a moral duty to obey police and 2 items reflecting normative alignment. As an important outcome of trust in police, 5 items were selected that tapped into propensity to cooperate with the police.

In addition to selecting items tapping into specific attitudes, a number of items were also selected to measure additional factors that previous research has found to be related to attitudes toward the police (e.g., Bradford and Myhill 2015; Brown and Benedict 2002). As indicated by one expert panellist, such measures are needed to conduct any in-depth analysis of the factors that can help explain why any variation in public attitudes toward police may exist (called 'explanatory measures'). These included measures of: contact with police and satisfaction with contact (7 items); perceptions of crime, safety, and disorder (10 items); previous victimization (3 items); and various demographic factors, including age, gender, ethnic identity, location, income (1 item, respectively). The complete list of questions selected in this phase of the project can be found in the survey instrument in Appendix D.

Phase 3: Pilot Survey

In early 2018, Halifax Regional Police led a survey exercise with support from the Calgary Police Service and the Ottawa Police Service. Data were collected by Corporate Research Associates using online survey panels, targeting a minimum of 500 respondents from each of the following groups: Halifax Regional Municipality residents, Calgary area residents, Ottawa area residents, residents from rural areas across Canada, and those indicating that French is their first language. The final sample size for this survey was 2,527.

The questions selected in phase 2 of this project formed the basis of this survey. Demographic questions were presented to respondents at the outset of the survey. These were followed by the attitudinal questions, which were randomized by theme and within each theme to control for potential order effects (see Appendix D for survey).

Phase 4: Data Analysis and Recommended Indicators

Method

In spring 2018, experts were commissioned to analyze the data from the pilot survey exercise to provide an empirically-informed recommendation for a set of 10-15 core indicators that could be used by police services in Canada to measure public attitudes toward the police (see Jackson and Bradford 2019 for the full technical report). The experts conducted a number of statistical analyses to inform their ultimate recommendations, including:

  1. Confirmatory factor analyses to explore the measurement properties of the items (e.g., to determine if the various items believed to tap into different constructs – such as procedural justice, community engagement, legitimacy – group together as expected and form separate factors that can be considered empirically distinct from one another);
  2. Regression analyses to explore variation in attitudes across demographic groups and other explanatory factors (e.g., perceptions of disorder, police contact, and victimization);
  3. Structural equation modelling to test  whether the data align with a popular framework used in the academic literature to explain police-citizen relations, called Procedural Justice Theory (PJT; Tyler 1990, 1994) (e.g., to determine whether the PJT-expected relationships between the various attitudinal factors emerge in the current dataset); and
  4. Substitutability analysis to determine which single indicators can be used in place of multiple indicators to obtain results similar to those found in previous steps (e.g., to determine which single procedural justice item produces similar results to those found when using all procedural justice items to predict legitimacy).

The above analyses, as well as practical and theoretical considerations, informed the indicators that were ultimately recommended by Jackson and Bradford (2019).

Results

The analyses suggest that the items comprising the key attitudinal constructs  (i.e., distributive justice, procedural justice, community engagement, perceived effectiveness, perceived legitimacy, and propensity to cooperate with the police) group together as expected, forming separate factors that are empirically distinct from, but related to, one another. Good scaling properties were evident regardless of whether the survey was completed by French versus English respondents or rural versus urban respondents. These findings support using these questions in surveys that sample these different demographic groups.Note9

Older respondents, those with a higher income, and those identifying primarily with being South Asian generally expressed more positive attitudes toward the police than younger respondents, those with a lower income, and those identifying primarily with being White, respectively.Note10 Those identifying primarily with being Black held more negative attitudes toward the police than those identifying primarily with being White. Compared to males, females had more positive perceptions of police legitimacy and indicated they were more willing to cooperate with the police. Those completing the survey in French had more positive assessments of police fairness (including procedural justice, distributive justice, and respecting the limits of rightful authority) and police effectiveness. Individuals living in rural regions perceived the police as less effective than individuals living in urban regions. Those who reported previous victimization, dissatisfaction with their personal safety from crime, and more disorder around them had more negative attitudes toward the police than those who reported no previous victimization, satisfaction with their personal safety from crime, and less disorder around them, respectively.Note11

The PJT-expected relationships between the key attitudinal constructs (i.e., distributive justice, procedural justice, bounded authority, community engagement, perceived effectiveness, perceived legitimacy, and propensity to cooperate with the police) were generally found using the current data. For instance, procedural justice and community engagement were strong predictors of perceived police legitimacy. In turn, perceived police legitimacy, community engagement, and distributive justice were strongly related to propensity to cooperate with the police. This generally parallels the findings of previous US, UK, and Australian research. One unique finding was the apparent importance of community engagement (relative to other constructs) in predicting both perceived police legitimacy and propensity to cooperate with the police. These results suggest that Canadians who perceive the police as legitimate and believe that the police understand and respond to the needs of their community are more likely to cooperate with the police than those who do not perceive the police as legitimate or engaged with their community. Finally, contact with police, particularly negative contact, was correlated with perceptions of procedural justice, community engagement and police legitimacy. Negative contact with the police was associated with lower scores on these factors as well as a decreased tendency to cooperate with the police, whereas positive police contact was associated with higher scores on these factors and an increased tendency to cooperate with the police.

Recommended Indicators

Based on their analyses, Jackson and Bradford (2019) recommended the indicators listed in Table 1 below. We have re-ordered some of these to improve efficiency in survey administration but fully agree with the questions they have recommended.

Table 1: Core indicators for measuring attitudes toward the police in Canada
  1. When you think about [INSERT POLICE SERVICE], to what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?Note12
    1. The police make decisions based on facts.
    2. The police treat people with respect.
    3. The police provide the same quality of service to all citizens.
    4. The police are dealing with the things that matter to people in this community.
    5. I feel a moral duty to follow police orders.
    6. I generally support how the police usually act.
    7. I would help the police if asked.
  2. About how often would you say that the police in your neighbourhood exceed their authority?Note13
  3. In general, to what extent do you agree that the [INSERT POLICE SERVICE] [is/are] effective at:Note14
    1. resolving crimes where violence is involved?
    2. responding quickly to calls for assistance?
  4. Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think the police in this area are doing?Note15
  5. Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think the police in this country are doing?Note16

Additional Recommended Items

In addition to the core indicators, Jackson and Bradford (2019) recommended that community surveys also incorporate questions measuring key correlates of attitudes toward the police as potential explanatory measures, including: demographics (e.g., gender identity, ethnic identity, age, income, rural/urban location); police contact (self- and police-initiated); previous victimization; and perceived safety and disorder. As mentioned, these factors can be useful for explaining the variation observed in community members' attitudes in any given survey.

Where possible, we would encourage the use of the same questions used in this pilot survey for these predictors (see Appendix E for a list of these additional recommended questions). However, we recognize that some of these questions involve areas where police services may wish to ask different questions relating to specific local crime problems or types of victimization and so may wish to modify these questions to local conditions.

Survey Administration Recommendations

Police services are encouraged, where possible, to adopt these questions – in this order, and with the proposed response scales – as the first five questions of any public attitude survey (see Appendix A for a full copy of the indicators with their respective response scales). Where necessary, the core indicators can be placed after demographic screening questions that are intended to ensure that respondents meet the survey eligibility criteria, but the core indicators should not be placed after other attitudinal measures.

These indicators are not intended to replace all public attitude surveying conducted by or on behalf of police services. Rather, they are intended to be included as a small set of front-end 'core' indicators whenever a public attitude survey is undertaken, to ensure that key measures of public attitudes toward the police are collected regularly, in a consistent fashion, across police services in Canada. With that being said, if a police service currently uses questions that are measuring the same underlying constructs as the questions proposed here, we would encourage those services to use the core indicator questions in their place, to align with the common data standard.

Conclusion

The core indicators listed in Table 1 have been endorsed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police as a common data standard for public attitude surveys on policing in Canada. Implementation of this common data standard across Canada will allow us to develop a better local and national understanding of the public's perceptions of Canadian police. Police services that adopt this standard into their community surveys are encouraged to contact the Research Division at Public Safety Canada to discuss next steps toward sharing and developing data at a multijurisdictional and national level.

References

Bradford, B., & Myhill, A. (2015). Triggers of change to public confidence in the police and criminal justice system: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales panel experiment. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 15, 4-43.

Bradford, B., Jackson, J., & Hough, M. (2017). Ethnicity, group position and police legitimacy: early findings from the European Social Survey. Unpublished manuscript.

Brandl, S. G., Frank, J., Worden, R. E., & Bynum, T. S. (1994). Global and specific attitudes toward the police: Disentangling the relationship. Justice Quarterly, 11, 119-134.

Brown, B., & Benedict, W. R. (2002). Perceptions of the police: Past findings, methodological issues, conceptual issues and policy implications. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 25, 543-580.

Furr, R. M. (2011). Scale construction and psychometrics for social and personality psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jackson, J., & Bradford, B. (2019). Measuring public attitudes towards the police. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada.

Jackson, J., Bradford, B., Stanko, B., & Hohl, K. (2012). Just authority? Trust in the police in England and Wales. New York, NY: Routledge.

Johnson, D., Maguire, E. R., & Kuhns, J. B. (2014). Public perceptions of the legitimacy of the law and legal authorities: Evidence from the Caribbean. Law and Society Review, 48, 947-78. 

Kline, T. (2005). Psychological testing: A practical approach to design and evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Maguire, E. R., & Johnson, D. (2010). Measuring public perceptions of the police. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 33, 703-730.

Simms, L. J. (2007). Classical and modern methods of psychological scale construction. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2/1, 414-433.

Tankebe, J., Reisig, M. D., & Wang, X. (2016). A multidimensional model of police legitimacy: A cross-cultural assessment. Law and Human Behavior, 40, 11-22.

Tyler, T. R. (1990). Why people obey the law. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Tyler, T. R. (1994). Psychological models of the justice motive. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 850-863.

Tyler, T. R., & Huo, Y. J. (2002). Trust in the law: Encouraging public cooperation with the police and courts. New York, NY: Russell Sage.


Appendix A: Core Indicators

These questions should be used in this order and with the response scales included here – as the first five questions of any public attitude survey. Where necessary, the core indicators can be placed after demographic screening questions that are intended to ensure that respondents meet the survey eligibility criteria, but the core indicators should not be placed after other attitudinal measures. Police services that adopt this standard into their community surveys are encouraged to contact the Research Division at Public Safety Canada to discuss next steps toward sharing and developing data at a multijurisdictional and national level.

1. When you think about [INSERT POLICE SERVICE], to what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?
Item Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
a. The police make decisions based on facts.          
b. The police treat people with respect.          
c. The police provide the same quality of service to all citizens.          
d. The police are dealing with the things that matter to people in this community.          
e. I feel a moral duty to follow police orders.          
f. I generally support how the police usually act.          
g. I would help the police if asked.          

2. About how often would you say that the police in your neighbourhood exceed their authority?

Never/Almost never
Rarely
Sometimes
Most of the time
Always/Almost always

3. In general, to what extent do you agree that the [INSERT POLICE SERVICE] [is/are] effective at:
Item Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
a. Resolving crimes where violence is involved?          
b. Responding quickly to calls for assistance?          

4. Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think the police in this area are doing?

Very poor
Poor
Average
Good
Excellent

5. Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think the police in this country are doing?

Very poor
Poor
Average
Good
Excellent

Appendix B: Instructions for Expert Panellists

The following brief was sent to all expert panel members in June 2017.

You are being asked to take part in an expert panel exercise, through which we will develop a set of pilot 'core' indicators for measuring public attitudes toward police in Canada. Similar to the use of health and wellbeing core indicators in other sectors, we are hoping to develop these indicators to be added onto the front-end of any survey undertaken in Canada that measures public attitudes toward police.

First step: Core indicators

As a first step in this exercise, we would like you to provide an answer to the following question:

If you could only ask 10 to 15 questions to gauge public attitudes toward police, what would those questions be?

Please include both the questions and the response categories you think would be appropriate to ask. For each of the questions you have suggested:

  1. Provide a brief written rationale as to why you feel the question and the response categories (i.e., terminology and number of response options) are appropriate (please provide supporting references where possible);
  2. Indicate whether or not the question has been validated by previous research, including whether or it has been validated cross-culturally (please provide supporting references where possible); and
  3. Explain what construct you believe the question is measuring (please provide supporting references where possible).

We expect that these questions may include terms such as "trust," "confidence,"  "good job/bad job" or "satisfaction". However, we are willing to consider other/additional approaches to measurement if you believe other areas/constructs are better suited to the task.

These questions do not need to include basic demographic indicators such as age, sex/gender, or geographic location (as we can assume these will be asked/collected as well), but if there are demographic indicators that you feel are essential to capture in such a survey (such as race/ethnicity, income level, educational attainment, etc.), please let us know.

Second step: Indicators for validity testing

As a second step, please provide suggestions for other questions, measures, or scales to include in a pilot study to assess the validity (e.g., convergent; discriminant; concurrent) of a scale using your suggested items. Please provide supporting references where possible.

All responses should be received no later than July 14, 2017.

Next steps

Following receipt of responses from all expert panellists, we will develop a draft set of indicators for circulation and final comment to the group.

Following final feedback from the panel, these indicators will be piloted at police services in Canada as part of their normal surveying processes.

If you have any questions on this process at any time, please do not hesitate to contact Anton Maslov (anton.maslov@canada.ca), Dr. Rebecca Mugford (rebecca.mugford@canada.ca), or Dr. Chris Giacomantonio (giacomc@halifax.ca).

Appendix C: Definitions of Key Attitudinal Constructs

Definitions of Key Attitudinal Constructs
Construct Definition
Trust/Confidence "the belief among members of the public that the police have the right intentions and are competent in the tasks assigned to them" (Jackson et al. 2012, p. 63).
Procedural Justice The perceived fairness of police, in terms of the process taken to arrive at a given outcome (Johnson et al. 2014; Maguire and Johnson 2010). Procedural justice is multidimensional, comprised of fairness in treatment, fairness in decision-making and providing a voice to citizens (Jackson and Bradford 2019).
Distributive Justice The extent to which police treat people equally, with respect to the outcomes police produce or equitable allocation of police resources to different groups in society (Jackson and Bradford 2019; Tankebe et al. 2016).
Community Engagement The extent to which citizens believe that the police understand and respond to the needs and desires of the community it serves (Jackson et al. 2012; Jackson and Bradford 2019).
Perceived Police Effectiveness The extent to which the police are seen as being successful in carrying out the roles entrusted to them by society, which includes keeping citizens safe, enforcing laws, and addressing crime (Jackson et al. 2012).
Respecting the Limits of Rightful Authority/Bounded Authority Perceptions concerning the extent to which the police respect and behave in accordance with their bounded/limited authority.
Legitimacy "a quality possessed by an authority, a law, or an institution that leads others to feel obligated to obey its decisions and directives voluntarily" (Tyler and Huo 2002, p. 102).
Normative Alignment A component of legitimacy, referring to the extent to which citizens believe that the police share their values and expectations concerning appropriate behaviour (Bradford et al. 2017; Jackson et al. 2012a).
Duty to Obey A component of legitimacy, referring to the extent to which citizens have an internalized sense of obligation to obey the police (Tyler and Huo 2002).
Propensity to Cooperate with Police The extent to which individuals are predisposed to cooperate with police, either proactively (e.g., reporting a crime to police) or reactively (e.g., helping the police with an investigation when asked).

Appendix D: Survey Instrument

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this survey. It should take approximately 10 minutes or so to complete. Please answer all questions honestly and try to provide a response to all questions. All of your responses are collected anonymously. If you don't know how to answer any specific question, please leave that question blank and move on to the next question. Your participation is voluntary and your responses will be kept entirely confidential and anonymous, and will be used solely for research purposes. Thank you for your time and assistance.

1. Of the languages you understand, which one did you learn first?

English
French
Other

2. [ASK IF FRENCH IN Q.1] We would appreciate receiving your survey responses in French, if that is acceptable to you. Would you complete the survey in French?

Yes – CONTINUE IN FRENCH
No – CONTINUE IN ENGLISH

3. [ASK IF ENGLISH OR OTHER IN Q.1] Would you like to complete the survey in English or French?

English
French

4. In which province or territory do you live?

Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Northwest Territories
Nunavut
Yukon
Outside of Canada TERMINATE

5. [IF ALBERTA IN Q.4] Do you live within the city of Calgary?

Yes
No

6. [IF NOVA SCOTIA IN Q.4] Do you live within the Halifax Regional Municipality?

Yes
No

6b. [IF ONTARIO IN Q.4] Do you live within the city of Ottawa?

Yes
No

7. What are the first three digits of your postal code?

8. [table linking responses to the above questions to quota requirements and respondent inclusion/exclusion criteria]

9. What is your age? (in years)

10. What is your gender?

Male
Female
Non-binary
Prefer not to answer

11. To which of the following racial or cultural groups do you belong? Please select all that apply.

White
South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.)
Chinese
Black
Filipino
Latin American
Arab
Southeast Asian (e.g., Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai, etc.)
West Asian (e.g., Iranian, Afghan, etc.)
Korean
Japanese
First Nations (North American Indian; includes Status and Non-Status Indians)
Métis
Inuk (Inuit)
Other
(Refused)

12. Which of the following categories best describes your total household income in 2017? That is, the total income of all persons in your household combined, before taxes?

Under $20,000
$20,000 to just under $40,000
$40,000 to just under $60,000
$60,000 to just under $80,000
$80,000 to just under $100,000
$100,000 to just under $150,000
$150,000 or above
Prefer not to answer

13. When you think about [INSERT POLICE SERVICE], to what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?
Item Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
a. The police treat people fairly (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
b. The police treat people with respect (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
c. The police make decisions based on facts (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
d. The police respect people's rights (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
e. The police address citizens in a respectful manner and appropriate tone (Procedural Justice- Block 1)          
f. The police show care and concern for the welfare of the citizens they deal with (Procedural Justice- Block 1)          
g. The police know how to carry out their official duties properly (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
h. The police treat you with respect if you had contact with them for any reason (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
i. The police explain their decisions to the people they deal with (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
j. The [INSERT POLICE SERVICE] [is/are] an organization with integrity (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
k. The [INSERT POLICE SERVICE] [is/are] an open and transparent organization (Procedural Justice - Block 1)          
l. The police treat everyone fairly, regardless of who they are (Distributive Justice – Block 2)          
m. The police treat everyone equally (Distributive Justice – Block 2)          
n. The police provide the same quality of service to all citizens (Distributive Justice – Block 2)          
o. The police enforce the law consistently when dealing with people (Distributive Justice Block 2)          
p. The police understand the issues that affect this community (Community Engagement – Block 3)          
q. The police are dealing with the things that matter to people in this community (Community Engagement – Block 3)          
r. The police can be relied on to be there when you need them (Community Engagement – Block 3)          
s. The police are sensitive to the needs of different cultures (Community Engagement – Block 3)          
t. The police generally have the same sense of right and wrong as I do (Legitimacy – Block 4)          
u. I generally support how the police usually act (Legitimacy – Block 4)          
v. I feel a moral duty to follow police orders (Legitimacy – Block 4)          
w. I would help the police if asked (Cooperation – Block 5)          
x. I would call the police for assistance (Cooperation – Block 5)          
y. I would call the police to report a crime (Legitimacy/Cooperation – Block 5)          
z. I would report suspicious activities to police (Cooperation – Block 5)          
aa. I would help the police by giving evidence in court (Cooperation – Block 5)          

14. How often would you say that the police in your neighbourhood make fair, impartial decisions in the cases they deal with?

Never/Almost never
Rarely
Sometimes
Most of the time
Always/Almost always

15. About how often would you say that the police in your neighbourhood exceed their authority?

Never/Almost never
Rarely
Sometimes
Most of the time
Always/Almost always

16. In general, to what extent do you agree that the [INSERT POLICE SERVICE] [is/are] effective at …: ROTATE LIST
Item Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
a. Resolving crimes when violence is involved?          
b. Resolving property crimes, such as theft?          
c. Responding quickly to calls for assistance?          

17. Overall, how would you rate your satisfaction with the [INSERT POLICE SERVICE]?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied

18. In the past 2 years, did the police approach you, stop you or make contact with you for any reason?

Yes
No

19. [ASK IF YES IN Q.18] How dissatisfied or satisfied were you with the way the police treated you the last time this happened?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied

20. In the past 2 years, have you approached or contacted the police for any reason?

Yes
No

21. [ASK IF YES IN Q.20] How dissatisfied or satisfied were you with the way the police treated you the last time this happened?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied

22. Approximately how many times have you had contact of any sort with police in the past two years?

23. Approximately how many times have you been stopped and questioned by the police in the past two years, including times that you were driving a vehicle or walking or hanging out in public?

24. [ASK IF 1 OR MORE IN Q.22 AND/OR Q.23] Based on your interactions with your local police in the past 2 years, to what degree were your local police:
a. Helpful when you asked them for assistance Very Unhelpful Unhelpful Neither Helpful nor Unhelpful Helpful Very Helpful
         
b. Polite to you Very Impolite Impolite Neither Polite nor Impolite Polite Very Polite
         
c. Fair during your interactions Very Unfair Unfair Neither Fair nor Unfair Fair Very Fair
         

25. In the past two years, have you been a victim of any crime?

Yes
No

26. [ASK IF YES IN Q.25] Did you report the crime to the police on any of the occasions that you were victimized in the past two years?

Yes
No

27. [ASK IF YES IN Q.25] How dissatisfied or satisfied were you with the way the police treated you the last time this happened?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied
I have not had contact with the police after my victimization in the past 2 years

28. In general, how satisfied are you with your personal safety from crime?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied

29. How safe do you feel from crime walking alone in your area after dark? Do you feel …?

Very safe
Reasonably safe
Somewhat unsafe
Very unsafe
Do not walk alone

30. During the last 5 years, do you think that crime in your neighbourhood has …?

Increased
Stayed the same
Decreased
Just moved into the area/Have not lived in neighbourhood long enough

31. In your neighbourhood, how much of a problem are:
Item A big problem A moderate problem A small problem Not a problem at all
a. Noisy neighbours or loud parties?        
b. People hanging around on the streets?        
c. Garbage or litter lying around?        
d. Vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to property or vehicles?        
e. People being attacked or harassed because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion?        
f. People using or dealing drugs?        
g. People being drunk or rowdy in public places?        

32. How much confidence do you have in the police?

A great deal of confidence
Some confidence
Not very much confidence
No confidence at all

33. Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think the police in this area are doing?

Very poor
Poor
Average
Good
Excellent

34. Taking everything into account, how good a job do you think the police in this country are doing?

Very poor
Poor
Average
Good
Excellent

Appendix E: Additional Recommended Survey Items

Demographics – Recommendations

1. What is your age? (in years)

2. What is your gender?

Male
Female
Non-binary
Prefer not to answer

3. To which of the following racial or cultural groups do you belong? Please select all that apply.

White
South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.)
Chinese
Black
Filipino
Latin American
Arab
Southeast Asian (e.g., Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai, etc.)
West Asian (e.g., Iranian, Afghan, etc.)
Korean
Japanese
First Nations (North American Indian; includes Status and Non-Status Indians)
Métis
Inuk (Inuit)
Other
(Refused)

4. Which of the following categories best describes your total household income in 2017? That is, the total income of all persons in your household combined, before taxes?

Under $20,000
$20,000 to just under $40,000
$40,000 to just under $60,000
$60,000 to just under $80,000
$80,000 to just under $100,000
$100,000 to just under $150,000
$150,000 or above
Prefer not to answer

5. What are the first three digits of your postal code?

Additional Explanatory Variables – Recommendations

1. In the past 2 years, did the police approach you, stop you or make contact with you for any reason?

Yes
No

2. [ASK IF YES TO PREVIOUS QUESTION] How dissatisfied or satisfied were you with the way the police treated you the last time this happened?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied

3. In the past 2 years, have you approached or contacted the police for any reason?

Yes
No

4. [ASK IF YES TO PREVIOUS QUESTION] How dissatisfied or satisfied were you with the way the police treated you the last time this happened?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied

5. In the past two years, have you been a victim of any crime?

Yes
No

6. In general, how satisfied are you with your personal safety from crime?

Very dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Satisfied
Very satisfied

7. In your neighbourhood, how much of a problem are:
Item A big problem A moderate problem A small problem Not a problem at all
a. Noisy neighbours or loud parties?        
b. People hanging around on the streets?        
c. Garbage or litter lying around?        
d. Vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to property or vehicles?        
e. People being attacked or harassed because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion?        
f. People using or dealing drugs?        
g. People being drunk or rowdy in public places?        

Footnotes

  1. 1

    A small number of questions were received that did not fit into any of these themes, and in most cases these were also indicators that had not been previously validated or having strong theoretical support. Those questions were omitted from the next phase of this project.

  2. 2

    See Appendix C for definitions of these constructs.

  3. 3

    In this sense, the indicator should not only be a valid measure of something, but ideally, should also be theoretically linked to broadly hoped-for outcomes of police work (e.g., willingness to cooperate with police). 

  4. 4

    Although no respondents proposed exactly the same wording, many questions were substantially similar to one another in terms of wording and the construct intended to be measured.

  5. 5

    While qualitative information about the public's attitudes is certainly important, the project team determined that qualitative questions are not suitable for inclusion in a 'core' indicator set because it is difficult to summarize and compare qualitative data across different samples.

  6. 6

    It is important to note that many indicators did not have all of these characteristics.

  7. 7

    Please see Appendix C for a discussion of how these constructs and their various dimensions were defined for the purposes of this project. 

  8. 8

    This included one general measure of satisfaction with police as a possible summary indicator for attitudes toward the police.

  9. 9

    The confirmatory factor analyses did not include the construct of bounded authority (i.e., respecting the limits of rightful authority) because only one item was used to measure this construct in the pilot survey.

  10. 10

    When measures of perceived safety, disorder and previous victimization were included in the regression model alongside the demographic predictors, the effect of income on attitudes diminished. As indicated by Jackson and Bradford (2019), this suggests that, relative to individuals with higher incomes, individuals with lower incomes are more likely to have a history of victimization, feel unsafe and perceive disorder around them.

  11. 11

    While the survey sample captured a broad range of geographic contexts and demographic groups, the panel was not designed to provide a representative national sample. In turn, the reader should interpret results as relevant to a range of Canadian contexts, but not necessarily as a demonstration of overall attitudes in Canada.

  12. 12

    Response categories: Strongly Disagree; Disagree; Neither agree nor disagree; Agree; Strongly Agree.

  13. 13

    Response categories: Never/almost never; Rarely; Sometimes; Most of the time; Always/Almost always.

  14. 14

    Response categories: Strongly Disagree; Disagree; Neither agree nor disagree; Agree; Strongly Agree.

  15. 15

    Response categories: Very poor; Poor; Average; Good; Excellent.

  16. 16

    Response categories: Very poor; Poor; Average; Good; Excellent.

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