Crime, Community Support, and Policing

Social Science Matrix is supporting a team of researchers from diverse social science disciplines to explore new approaches for measuring attitudes toward law enforcement in local communities.

Bringing together methods from fields such as political science, psychology, and development economics, a key goal is to “to understand how police departments can transform relationships with local communities in cases where community trust and confidence in the police is low,” according to the seminar’s co-leader, Aila Matanock, Assistant Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley.

Matanock is coordinating the seminar with Jack Glaser, Associate Professor and Associate Dean at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, who has worked with the Department of Justice and other institutions to address racial profiling. “Being able to tap those community attitudes is really important,” Glaser says. “It’s important to police chiefs; they really care about community attitudes. It’s an area where the scholars, the policy people, the practitioners, and the community can all get together and work toward the same goal. It’s a nice opportunity for an intersection across the domains.”

Through the seminar, the researchers hope to examine how “sensitive survey design” methods could more accurately measure attitudes toward law enforcement in communities with organized criminal gangs. The seminar will also consider how increased use of new surveillance technology and intervention by external actors—especially federal oversight, consultants, and private security guards—can influence community trust in the police.

Matanock and Glaser hope to work with local law enforcement officials from Oakland to apply methods of assessing community trust in police. “We’re building off a larger school of literature that’s applying social psychology techniques to political science,” Matanock says. “These are questions facing Oakland and other police departments around the Bay Area.”

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