A slight majority of police recruits at the beginning of training told surveyors in a Justice Department-sponsored research project they believe that in some working areas, it is more useful to be aggressive than to be courteous. Only a minority of recruits believe that the “community shares a lot of respect for the police,” and 37 percent believe that officers generally should be suspicious of people rather than give them the benefit of the doubt. These were among preliminary results reported in mid-June by criminologist Dennis Rosenbaum of the University of Illinois-Chicago to the National Institute of Justice’s annual conference. An earlier version of this post erroneously attributed the findings to police officers. Nearly three-fourths of the recruits believe that “all people should be treated with respect regardless of their attitude.”
Rosenbaum is leading a major research program involving 24 police agencies, ranging from large police departments in Chicago and Los Angeles to a Kentucky police training agency that supports 400 smaller departments. The project is aimed at “tracking the life course of police officers and organizations” and measuring the impact of training innovations on policing. Police Chief Rick Tanksley of Oak Park, Ill., a project participant, said it includes an independent survey of people who have had dealings with the police departments being studied, asking about their satisfaction with the encounter and whether officers treated them fairly and listened to their side of a story. The project has been funded for three years and may be extended.