Greenville Police say public perception increasing in a positive way

Chief Ken Miller presents a survey to the Public Safety Citizens Review Board.

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A community survey released by the Greenville Police Department Monday shows public perception of the department is increasing in a favorable manner.

Chief Ken Miller with the Greenville Police Department presented the survey they conducted between April and May of this year to both city council and the Public Safety Citizens Review Board Monday evening.

Police say the numbers are positive, but some community members aren’t sold.

“It helps us build a strategy and formulate a strategy to improve,” Chief Miller said.

Greenville Police surveyed 401 people in a city of 68,000. Some of the findings include that 86 percent of people viewed the Greenville Police Department positively. That number is up six percent from 2014. 76 percent of African-Americans viewed the police in a positive light which was up 15 percent from 2014. The data also shows youth perception of police has increased. However, African-Americans still ranked police lower in treating people with respect and use of force.

“What’s real important is we don’t always know what works and what doesn’t,” Chief Miller said. “From our perspective, somethings may work well but actually be damaging to the relationship that’s so important to effective policing.”

Chief Miller credits some of the increase to activities like Cops on the Court, their gang intervention programs, and partnerships with community activists and organizations such as the NAACP with making the difference. He says they’ve put more effort in being visible in the community, restructuring their department, and focusing on training.

“We know we’re improving, and we can see where we go up or down,” Chief Miller said.

However, Some don’t think the numbers really reflect the community.

“I saw the racial breakdown, and it did show improvement, but what I was skeptical of is why they did not include socioeconomic status,” said community organizer, Jalen Elrod.

He says that was his major issue with the survey.

“We know that most allegations of police brutality and police misconduct happen in African-American communities, but specifically lower income communities, and this survey did not include that,” Elrod said.

Some members of the Public Safety Citizen’s Review Board also voiced that same concern.

“I was really surprised the numbers were so high, and I think that’s because they weren’t broken down in those different categories,” said Osa Benson, the Public Safety Citizens Review Board Vice Chair.

Both Elrod and Benson believe the survey needs to be conducted a bit differently and also focus on other minorities, not just African-Americans.

“…such a small segment of the community, so you’re not really getting a clear reflection of how the community as a whole might feel about police conduct,” Benson said.

The Greenville Police Department did see a decline in the way people viewed their 911 system and their detectives.

The Public Safety Review Board also wants to appeal to the community, so more people to attend their meetings and share their experiences with police.

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