Police poll quantifies deep divides between white and non-white perceptions about police conduct, racism, and protests

(MADISON, Wis.) – The Wisconsin Professional Police Association and its more than 11,000  members released its much-anticipated tenth annual statewide public opinion poll today,  revealing strong opinions about law enforcement policies and practices, our communities, and  how race and experience impact perceptions.  

“This is our most comprehensive and illustrative report to-date,” said Jim Palmer, executive  director of the WPPA. “As our world becomes more complicated and dynamic, this exploration  helps facilitate a meaningful discourse that is informed by both public sentiment and certifiable  facts. We believe that this poll not only benefits our communities through listening, learning  and evolving, but also the dedicated officers who serve them.”  

This year’s poll strongly suggests that the public support for law enforcement is growing after a  slight two-year dip during protests and COVID-19. Wisconsinites continue to rank public safety  as the government’s number one priority, exhibit extraordinary support for law enforcement’s use of body-worn cameras, and the vast majority of the public agree that a well-funded and  well-trained police force improves the overall quality of life in their community.  

“The rest of the country is paying attention to what’s happening in Wisconsin,” said Palmer.  “We’ve been asked by other national law enforcement groups to present our model of  accountability and outreach, which makes us proud of the work we’re doing as an  organization.”  

Notably, this year’s poll suggests that a third of both white and minorities in Wisconsin believe  that their community is becoming less safe, and both groups identified drug addiction as the  “most extreme” problem in their local community. Also, our poll indicates that a significant  majority of the public believes that Wisconsin has experienced an increase in violent crime over  the past year, which would be consistent with the latest crime reporting data.  

Other highlights include:  

  • 77% of the public approve of the way their local police force is handling its job. • Only 14% of non-white respondents indicate that police spend too much time in their neighborhoods.  
  • 91% of the public and a majority of both white and non-white residents agree that having a well-trained police force helps make our community a safer place in which to live. • 80% of the public agree that having a well-funded police force improves the overall quality of  life in our community.  
  • 73% of the public agree that the respect for law enforcement has decreased from a year ago. • 70% of the public believe that Wisconsin has experienced an increase in violent crime over the past year.  
  • A majority of both white and minority individuals believe that having a police officer in a school increases school safety.
  • A majority of the public opposes reducing their local police department’s budget to increase spending in social programs, such as mental health services and those to address homelessness.  
  • 67% of the public supports increasing spending for social programs, but not at the expense of their police department.
  • 64% of the public support increasing local taxes for specially-trained mental health officers and 61% favor increasing local taxes to pay for body worn cameras.
  • While a majority of the minority population appears to believe that police violence against blacks or African-Americans in Wisconsin is moderately or extremely serious, it’s worth noting that this same demographic category appears to also incorrectly believe that most of the  individuals shot by Wisconsin officers last year were unarmed and members of a minority  group.  
  • Only 40% of minorities agree that of the individuals shot by police officers in Wisconsin last year were armed. Data compiled by the WPPA demonstrates that 100% of the fatal police shootings in Wisconsin last year involved armed individuals.  
  • 69% of minorities agree that most of the people shot by law enforcement officers in Wisconsin last year were members of a minority group. In fact, 27% of the people shot by police, or six individuals out of a total of 22, were non-white.  
  • Qualified Immunity: A majority of the public (54%) disagree that police officers should be held liable for monetary damages when they followed their training and didn’t knowingly violate the law.  

The WPPA is the only law enforcement group in the country that has routinely surveyed its  statewide residents on an annual basis to evolve its understanding of the issues and develop  more informed policies that increase safety and improve service.  

If you are interested in the full WPPA 2022 PUBLIC SURVEY, please contact Jim Palmer at  [email protected].  

Survey Methodology:  

 Online survey dates were from February 11, 2022 to February 21, 2022.   1,119 members of the adult general public of Wisconsin completed the online  survey.  

 The survey represents a quota sample drawn from Wisconsin adults with access to  the Internet.  

 The Margin of Error for this study is assumed to be +/- 5% at the 95% Confidence  Interval.  

 The analyses are weighted to reflect the age, race/ethnicity, income, education, and  gender demographic profile of the state of Wisconsin.  

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