More African-Americans today have positive perceptions of the Greenville Police Department than did in 2014, according to the results of a random telephone survey of adult city residents by Research Strategies, Inc. However, the numbers still lag behind white residents.

Seventy-six percent of African-American respondents said their overall perception of the department is positive, 15 percent higher than in a 2014 survey conducted two months after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the first in a number of controversial fatal shootings of black men by white police officers across the country. But that’s well short of the 90 percent among white residents.

The survey was conducted in April and May, shortly after the department rolled out its body camera program.

“We’ve made progress, but we still have work to do,” Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said.

Since the 2014 survey, the department’s use of force policy has been overhauled, de-escalation and cultural training has been emphasized, changes have been made to the way citizen complaints are handled, and the department has gone to a community policing plan that reduces the number of patrol zones and focuses on collaborative problem-solving.

“It seems to have had some affect,” Miller said, “but we can’t stop. It’s all about building relationships.”

Positive ratings on treating people with respect went up from 44 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2017, and negative ratings decreased from 39 percent to 20 percent. From 2014 to 2017, there was a 12 percent increase in positive ratings concerning use of force. Negative ratings on use of force decreased from 32 percent to 14 percent.

Miller said personal experience, news coverage about the Greenville Police Department and word of mouth have had the most influence on perception ratings. But he said events in other cities and states also have an impact.

Almost half of residents surveyed said news coverage elsewhere has had at least some influence on their impression of the GPD. The majority of respondents said their impression of the GPD is better than for police in other cities.

Nearly eight out of 10 residents were aware of the GPD’s new program that requires all uniformed officers who interact with the public to wear a body camera and one-third knew the rules concerning video from those cameras. The survey results indicate city residents have strong expectations that body-worn cameras will resolve many problems.

Most Greenville residents feel safe. Ninety percent of Greenville residents said the city police are effective in making Greenville safe and 94 percent say the city is a safe place to live. More than one-third say, however, the city needs more police officers.

A higher percentage of respondents in this year’s survey said they had no safety concerns for the city overall. Twenty-seven percent had no concerns, compared to 10 percent in 2014. For those who did have concerns, drugs were at the top. Violent crime topped the list in 2014. A greater percentage of respondents had no concerns when asked about their own neighborhood as well. Thirty-eight percent said they had no concern, compared to 22 percent in 2014.

Property crime topped the neighborhood list in both surveys. Fewer respondents mentioned it this year (23 percent) compared to 2014 (23 percent).

The complete survey results can be found here.

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