ODU survey shows Hampton Roads residents have positive perception of police, differences exist by race


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A survey conducted by Old Dominion University indicates that residents in Hampton Roads typically have a positive perception of police, but significant differences exist in the results when looking at demographics such as race and city.

The Social Science Research Center (SSRC) online survey polled 1,105 people between June 26 and July 13 — 1,100 of which were Hampton Roads residents within the seven cities. The dates put the survey happening during phase 2 and phase 3 of reopening Virginia.

The data collected was for the 11th annual Life in Hampton Roads (LIHR) survey which was done to better understand how the community sees the quality of life throughout Hampton Roads. Topics addressed included the coronavirus pandemic, local police, recent protests, and overall employment.

For part of the survey, various questions were asked to gauge the public’s perception of the police. SSRC results show that nearly 31% said they were “very satisfied” while 35.3% said they were “somewhat satisfied” with the local police.

On the opposite end, the SSRC reports that 13.7% said they were “somewhat dissatisfied” and 11.8% said they were “very dissatisfied” with about 7.7% who remained neutral and said they did not know how they felt.

Nearly 37.6% said they “somewhat” trust the police and 35.6% trust them a “great deal” while nearly 17% said they trust the police “not much,” and 9.8% trust them “not at all.”

Attitudes toward the police show significant differences by race. About half of whites said they are “very satisfied” with the local police while only 12.8% of Blacks and 23.8% of those in other racial groups said the same.

Close to 50% of Black respondents said they were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with local police, according to the survey data. 

Similar patterns are seen with regard to trust in the local police. More than half of whites reported trusting the police “a great deal” compared to only 35.6% of other racial groups and 10.6% of Black respondents.

Only 4.4% of whites reported trusting police “not at all” compared to 16.9% of black respondents and 12.9% of other racial groups.

Reports of negative experiences with police also varied significantly by race. The data show that about 32% of Black respondents said that they or someone close to them had a negative experience with police in the past year, as did 25% of those in other racial groups.

Only 12% of white respondents reported a negative experience with the police. Similarly, more than four in 10 Black respondents and those from other racial groups reported hearing about someone from their local community having a negative experience within the past year compared to only 22.5% of white respondents.

ODU’s data collection for the survey started about a month after the death of George Floyd which resulted in nationwide and local protests. Respondents showed general support for the local peaceful protests, with 78.1% indicating they “support” or “strongly support” the local demonstrations.

Similarly, about 78.5% of respondents agreed that police in Hampton Roads are doing a good job of handling the protests with less than 5% who “strongly disagreed” that police are doing a good job.

Trust and satisfaction with the police varied based on where respondents lived. 

Satisfaction with police was at its highest of around 77% in both Chesapeake and Virginia Beach and its lowest at about 63% in both Hampton and Portsmouth.

The survey results show that there were even larger disparities across cities in the trust of the police.

Fewer than two-thirds of respondents in Hampton, Portsmouth, and Norfolk indicated that they trust the police at least “somewhat.” About three-quarters of Chesapeake and Suffolk respondents and 82.3% of Virginia Beach respondents indicated that they trust the police.

According to the SSRC, there were also significant differences among cities in terms of negative experiences with police. Only 13.3% of respondents living in Virginia Beach reported that they or someone close to them had a negative experience with the police in the past year.

Reports of negative experiences were twice as high in Suffolk and Norfolk. More than one in five respondents from Hampton and Newport News reported negative experiences with the police, according to the ODU summary.

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