This report focuses on the state of Ohio and its third- and fifth-largest cities, Cincinnati and Akron. (The Cincinnati Police Department participated in the report; the Akron Police Department declined.) The report shines a light on how current policing practices affect health and well-being, and points toward better practices that will help restore trust and respect, improve public health, and build safer environments for all. It is particularly aimed at helping shape the standards and practices under development by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, and practices in Cincinnati and Akron; the report can also inform other cities nationwide that are working to reform policing practices.
For this report, researchers reviewed a large body of literature about policing models and practices. We led eight focus groups of community members and police and interviewed people with a variety of perspectives. We also coordinated an in-person survey of 470 residents in select neighborhoods of Cincinnati and Akron. The survey results show stark disparities between how samples of black and white people in these cities experience and feel about police and policing practices (note: total survey responses varied for each question):
- Among white respondents, almost 70 percent (n=67) said they trust the police in their community either “somewhat” or “a lot” compared to about 40 percent (n=135) of black respondents.
- About one in seven black respondents (n=45) reported being stopped by police one or two times a day, and almost one in five (n=58) reported being stopped one or two times a week. Only three percent (n=3) of white respondents being stopped once or twice daily, and just another two percent (n=2) said they were stopped once or twice weekly.
- More than 40 percent of black respondents (n=131) said they were “very afraid” or “somewhat afraid” of police in their community, compared to only 15 percent of white respondents (n=14).
- Nearly two-thirds of black respondents (n=209) said they had feared police would injure or kill them, or had those fears for someone else in an incident they witnessed. The response from white respondents was almost the exact opposite – nearly two-thirds (n=62) said they never had those fears.
These disparities demonstrate that many black people live daily with the belief that the police are not there to serve and protect them. One black focus group participant in Cincinnati said:
I get a little queasy when a cop pulls up behind me.
In Akron, another said:
How can I feel safe in my own body if I don’t feel protected [by the police]?
Little research exists on police trust of the public in the United States. However, some studies find that police culture leads to social isolation, cynicism toward their own agency or the public, and an us versus them mentality of “warriors” and “civilians.” In one focus group, a Cincinnati officer said:
Everyone else is normal because they trust easier than we do. But the majority of people lie to us, so we have to believe that everyone is lying. And they lie really well to us.