NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The results from this year’s Life in Hampton Roads survey continue to show racial and ethnic disparities in how satisfied people are with police in their respective cities.
The 13th annual Life in Hampton Roads survey included two items measuring negative experiences with the police:
- In the past year, have you or someone close to had a negative experience with police (e.g., the officer shouted at you, cursed at you, pushed or grabbed you)?
- In the past year, have you heard of someone in your local community who had a negative experience with police (e.g., the officer shouted at them, cursed at them, pushed or grabbed them)?
This year, about 19% of those who responded reported that either they or someone close to them had a negative experience with the police, up from 17% last year.
However, 47% of respondents reported knowing someone who had a significant negative experience with the police in the past year, up from the previous two years’ percentages of 33% in 2021 and 31% in 2020.
“Knowledge of serious negative encounters with the police is higher than close personal encounters, at least in part, because there are so many ways of hearing about unpleasant incidences – e.g., from family, friends or media sources,” the report states.
African American respondents were more than twice as likely as white respondents (29% versus 13%) to report that they or someone close to them had a negative experience with the police. More than half of African American respondents (59%) knew someone in the community who had a serious negative interaction with the police – 20% higher than whites and about 10% more than those who identify as some other racial group.
“In general, there appears to be an increase in negative experiences with the police,” the report states.
The report said the variation in personal negative experiences with the police appears to vary across Hampton Roads cities – ranging from 12% in Newport News to 33% in Portsmouth, but it said the relationship “is not statistically significant and may well have resulted from sampling variation.”
Knowledge of someone else’s negative police experiences varies significantly by city, according to the report, with 37% reporting such knowledge in Suffolk and Newport News, while it was 40% in Chesapeake and 44% in Virginia Beach. Hampton (53%), Norfolk (58%) and Portsmouth (68%) all had a majority of its respondents report they knew someone in the community with a serious negative police experience.
About 72% of respondents said they are somewhat or very satisfied with the police, which has been consistent over the past few years, according to the report, and there is “a fairly solid trust” with police in Hampton Roads, with 77% at least somewhat trusting of police, but fewer people (34% this year versus 39% in 2021) are reporting a great deal of trust.
There are significant racial and ethnic disparities in police satisfaction, the report stated, with white respondents (83%) more than twice as likely as African Americans (67.1%) to report they are very satisfied with the police.
At 87%, white respondents trust the police somewhat or a great deal, a higher percentage than African Americans, at 70%, according to the report.
Perceptions of the police vary by city, ranging from 88% of Newport News respondents reporting being very or somewhat satisfied, versus just 40% in Portsmouth. It was similar for trust, with Chesapeake, Newport News, Virginia Beach and Suffolk all reporting between 80% to 82%, while Hampton (70%), Norfolk (72%) and Portsmouth (62%) all have ratings 10% to 20% lower.
People’s willingness to call police was high in cases where someone was breaking into a home or building or witnessing an assault, with about 75% reporting they would be very likely to call the police in those situations, but when witnessing someone selling drugs, that percentage drops to 43%, with 36% reporting they would be unlikely to call police.
Respondents saying they would report break-ins or assaults did not vary much by city, the report stated, but the willingness to report witnessing someone selling drugs did.
More than half of respondents in Newport News (57%) and Suffolk (56%) would be very likely to call police if they saw someone selling drugs, versus 36% of respondents in Portsmouth and 28% of respondents in Norfolk saying they would do so. In Chesapeake, Hampton and Virginia Beach, the percentages ranged from 43% to 47%.
By race, 81% to 82% of white respondents responded that they would call police in cases of someone breaking into a home or witnessing an assault, with a much lower percentage of African Americans (63% and 61%, respectively) saying they would do the same.
While white respondents are much less likely to call the police when they see someone selling drugs (49%), it’s even lower for African Americans (33%).
The report said that while a full analysis of the findings is beyond its current scope, the data shows “African Americans respondents have more negative experiences with the police and are less satisfied and trusting of the police … (and) willingness to call the police in each of these situations is correlated with both negative experiences with the police as well as trust and satisfaction with the police.”
Trust in the police, it said, “is the strongest factor affecting willingness to call.”