Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society
Western Society of Criminology
A positive relationship between law enforcement and the public is critical for the effective operation of the agency and continued safety of the community. The public’s perception of law enforcement officers is one indication of the nature of that relationship. Past research on perception of the police has used questionnaires to untangle how the public views officers. This research uses an alternative method to measure the public’s perceptions of the police by asking respondents to draw a picture of a police officer. By analyzing the drawings, it can be seen what characteristics people identify with law enforcement. This study analyzed the drawings of 443 respondents. The findings show that there are differences in perceptions of the police based on the respondent’s gender and race, but not age. Other findings show that female respondents are likely to draw female officers, but male respondents are not. Items included in the drawings (e.g., a badge, gun, facial hair) were also examined. Future research using this method of measuring perceptions of the police with different demographic groups will help us more fully understand the public’s insight into law enforcement.
Marion, Nancy & Twede, Jason. 2020. Show Me, Don’t Tell Me: A Picturesque View of Perceptions of Police. Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society, 21(1). 1-21.