January 1, 2001
by Darrell West, Taubman Center for Public Policy, Brown University
Table of Contents
This report examines public attitudes towards the Rhode Island State Police. Using telephone interviews conducted May 5-9, 2001 with 372 people who in calendar year 2000 received a traffic citation, filed an accident report, or contacted the State Police to report an incident or offense, we looked at a variety of performance areas: courtesy, demeanor, response time, knowledge, clarity, sense of fairness, and overall service rating. We also asked those who came in contact with the State Police for suggestions about how to improve highway safety. The report was commissioned by the State Police.
Among the highlights of the survey are the following:
1) 83 percent gave the State Police an excellent or good rating in terms of the overall service that was received,
2) 88 percent believed the officer(s) they dealt with was courteous, while 92 percent felt the officer(s) had a professional demeanor,
3) 87 percent thought the State Police was knowledgeable and 86 percent indicated they received clear explanations about what was happening,
4) 86 percent felt they were treated fairly by the State Police,
5) 87 percent believed the State Police responded to accidents and offenses in a satisfactory amount of time,
6) there were few differences in attitudes based on sex, race, or state residence,
7) there were some age differences with younger people giving the State Police lower marks for overall service, fairness, and courtesy than was the case with older people,
8) there is some difference in overall service ranking based on barracks. The highest rated barracks was Portsmouth (88 percent), followed by Hope Valley (86 percent), Headquarters and Wickford (tied at 85 percent), Chepachet (79 percent), and Lincoln Woods (78 percent).
9) individuals receiving traffic citations were the least likely to think they had been treated fairly (77 percent) relative to those involved with accident reports (88 percent) and incident reports (85 percent).
10) the most common suggestions for improving highway safety were greater visibility, putting more patrol officers on the road, watching for speeders, controlling road rage by drivers, and increasing the number of officers.
This study was based on 372 telephone interviews conducted with people who received a traffic citation, filed an accident report, or contacted the State Police to report an incident or offense. Respondents were randomly selected by Taubman Center personnel from the universe of people who dealt with the State Police during calendar year 2000.
Interviews were undertaken by trained and supervised callers at the Taubman Center for Public Policy of Brown University between May 5-9, 2001. Several callbacks were made to people who were not at home at the time of the initial phone call in order to insure that everyone in the sample had a chance to answer the questions.
The margin of error in this survey is around plus or minus 5 percentage points. This means that a percentage of 88 percent could range as low as 83 or as high as 93 percent.
We looked at a variety of performance areas: courtesy, demeanor, response time, knowledge, clarity, sense of fairness, and overall service rating, and asked for suggestions about how to improve highway safety (see Appendix I for list of survey questions and responses).
The characteristics of those responding to this survey is shown below in Table 1:
Table 1: Demographic Description of Survey Respondents
|-inside Rhode Island||84|
|-outside Rhode Island||1|
We looked at a variety of performance measures in regard to the State Police. As shown in Table 2, the State Police receives high marks across every performance area measured. The highest evaluations came in regard to professional demeanor, where 92 percent felt the officer(s) they dealt with was very professional or professional. Only five percent believed the officer was unprofessional and three percent offered no opinion.
Eighty-eight percent said they officer they dealt with was courteous, while 9 percent said the officer was not courteous, and three percent had no opinion. Eighty-seven percent felt that the officer was knowledgeable (41 percent said very knowledgeable and 46 percent said knowledgeable) while 5 percent said the officer was not knowledgeable and 8 percent gave no opinion.
Of those who filed an accident or incident report, 87 percent were satisfied with the amount of time it took the officer to respond, and 9 percent were not satisfied. Eighty-six percent believed the officer was clear in explaining the situation, 86 percent felt they were treated fairly, and 83 percent gave the State Police an excellent or good rating overall. Nine percent claimed the overall service was only fair, six percent felt it was poor, and 2 percent did not know or gave no answer.
Table 2: Assessments of the Rhode Island State Police
|Satisfactory Response Time on Accidents and Incidents||87|
|Overall Service Rating||83|
There were no significant gender differences in assessments of the State Police. Table 3 breaks down the views of males and females in assessments of the State Police. For example, in overall service rating, 84 percent of men and women give officers an excellent or good rating. The category where there was the largest difference based on gender was clarity. Ninety percent of women compared to 84 percent of men indicated officers gave them clear explanations of what was happening.
Table 3: State Police Assessments by Sex
|Overall Service Rating||84||84|
There were no significant racial differences in assessments of the State Police. Table 4 breaks down the views of whites and minorities in assessments of the State Police. For example, in overall service rating, 85 percent of whites give officers an excellent or good rating, compared to 79 percent of minorities. There was some difference in intensity of sentiment on overall service ratings. Whites were more likely to give excellent (50 percent) than good (35 percent) ratings, while minorities were more likely to give good (49 percent) than excellent (30 percent) assessments. Eight percent of whites and 16 percent of minorities rated the State Police as only fair, and 6 percent of whites and 5 percent of minorities rated the State Police as poor.
Table 4: State Police Assessments by Race
|Overall Service Rating||85||79|
Overall, older people give the State Police higher marks than younger people (see Table 5). While 96 percent of those 65 years and older rate officers excellent or good, only 67 percent of those 18 to 24 years old do. Younger respondents are less likely to say their treatment was fair (79 percent) than senior citizens (96 percent). Those aged 18 to 24 are less likely to say officers were courteous (79 percent) compared to those 65 years and older (96 percent).
Table 5: State Police Assessments by Age
There were few significant differences in assessments of the State Police based on whether the person lived inside or outside of Rhode Island. Table 6 breaks down the overall service rating by state residence. Eighty-three percent of those living in Rhode Island give officers an excellent or good rating, compared to 85 percent of those living outside the state. Non-Rhode Island residents, however, were more satisfied with response time. Ninety-six percent of those indicated they were satisfied with the amount of time it took the State Police to respond, compared to 86 percent of those living within the state.
Table 6: State Police Assessments by Residence
|Rhode Island||Outside Rhode Island|
|Overall Service Rating||83||85|
There is some difference in overall service ranking based on barracks. As shown in Table 7, the most highly rated barracks was Portsmouth (88 percent), followed by Hope Valley (86 percent), Headquarters and Wickford (tied at 85 percent), Chepachet (79 percent), and Lincoln Woods (78 percent).
In terms of fairness, the barracks ranking included: Portsmouth and Wickford (tied at 92 percent), Lincoln Woods (88 percent), Headquarters (84 percent), Chepachet (83 percent), and Hope Valley (80 percent).
Table 7: State Police Assessments by Barracks
|Chepachet4||Hope Valley||Lincoln Woods||Portsmouth||Wickford||Headquarters|
There are some differences in State Police assessments based on whether the contact was a traffic citation, accident report, or incident report (see Table 8). Overall service ratings were higher for accident and incident reports (84 percent each) compared to traffic citations (77 percent). And individuals receiving traffic citations were the least likely to think they had been treated fairly (77 percent) relative to those involved with accident reports (88 percent) and incident reports (85 percent).
Table 8: State Police Assessments by Type of Contact
|Traffic Citation||Accident Report||Incident Report|
In order to give respondents a chance to make suggestions, we asked them what the State Police could do to improve highway safety. Appendix II lists all of their suggestions. The most common suggestions that were made included: greater visibility, putting more patrol officers on the road, watching for speeders, controlling road rage by drivers, and increasing number of officers. A number of people did not answer the question or felt the State Police already was doing a lot of improve safety.
Hello, I'm calling from the Center for Public Policy at Brown University. Can I speak to _____? We are conducting a study of people's experience with the Rhode Island State Police, and we'd really appreciate your help. (if individual not home, terminate interview politely and ask when you can call back).
Do not ask, but code gender of respondent: 58% male, 38% female, 4% don't know
In your dealings with the Rhode Island State Police this past year, were you treated courteously by the officer(s) you dealt with? 88% yes, 9% no, 3% don't know or no answer
Was the trooper's demeanor at the time 49% very professional, 43% professional, 5% unprofessional, 3% don't know or no answer
If you called to file an offense report or were involved in an accident, were you satisfied with the amount of time it took to respond? 87% yes, 9% no, 4% don't know or no answer
Would you say the trooper you dealt with was: 41% very knowledgeable, 46% knowledgeable, 5% not very knowledgeable, 8% don't know or no answer
Did you receive a clear explanation about what was happening? 86% yes, 11% no, 3% don't know or no answer
Did you feel you were treated fairly? 86% yes, 11% no, 3% don't know or no answer
How would you rate the overall service you received? 47% excellent, 36% good, 9% only fair, 6% poor, 2% don't know or no answer
What can the Rhode Island State Police do to improve the safety on our highways? (open-ended responses)
Which of the following age group are you in? 16% 18-24, 21% 25-34, 27% 35-44, 18% 45-54, 8% 55-64, 7% 65 or older, 3% no answer
Are you: 82% white, 4% African-American, 4% Hispanic, 2% Asian-American, 2% Native American, 3% other, 3% don't know or no answer
Do not ask, but code from top of call sheet whether person: 13% received traffic citation, 51% filed accident report, 34% filed offense report, 2% don't know
Do not ask, but code from top of call sheet whether state police barracks was: 19% SPC State Police Chepachet, 21% SPHV State Police Hope Valley, 15% SPLW State Police Lincoln Woods, 16% SPP State Police Portsmouth, 19% SPW State Police Wickford, 9% SPHQ State Police Headquarters, 1% don't know
Darrell M. West