The River Forest police department is taking part in a new national survey on the public’s attitude toward police and view on how they deliver service to the community.
In the next six months, for every police report, traffic crash or traffic stop, members of the River Forest Police Department will hand out survey cards to each person they deal with. Those cards, which will have an identifying number rather than a name, will direct people to a Web site or toll-free telephone number.
“This survey will assess police services delivered to all citizens our department members come into contact with, whether or not they are residents of the Village of River Forest,” said chief Frank Limon.
A team of researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago headed by Dennis Rosenbaum and Susan Hartnett will assess the completed surveys.
Rosenbaum and Hartnett plan to develop and field-test a new system called the National Police Research Platform, which will analyze police activities and advance new evidence-based practices that can be used in River Forest and throughout the United States.
The National Institute of Justice awarded $1.8 million to the University of Illinois at Chicago to evaluate the current state of American policing. The University of South Florida and Northeastern University are UIC’s two major university partners. River Forest joins about 25 law enforcement agencies in the Chicago area, Boston and Los Angeles that have agreed to participate in the study.
“That’s part of their larger goal, said Sgt. Mike Thornley, who is the police department’s administrative and support services supervisor. “We’re a facet of that.”
Thornley said Chief Limon was approached by UIC because of River Forest’s current involvement in another UIC study, which seeks to track the development of police officers’ attitudes as they move through their careers.
Thornley said River Forest officials welcomed the scrutiny of the survey process. He said such feedback is essential to understanding how a department is functioning and can be improved.
“The larger ramification is, if a policing wants to be a profession, it needs to be judged by the people it serves,” he said.
“Policing isn’t all warm and fuzzy,” Thornley noted. “Sometimes you have to tell people to do things they don’t want to do. But we can do it professionally.”
“People may not like that they got a ticket, but if the officer was courteous and professional, and explained themselves well, we’re doing our job.”
Thornley said the department is satisfied that the UIC survey will be the most unbiased and widely accepted means of gathering public input on the River Forest department.
“It’s an independently conducted survey,” said Thornley, who added that the total anonymity of the study should assure more honest and complete answers, both positive and critical.
“It’s a totally blind survey. Neither the officers nor citizens being surveyed will be identified to the River Forest department.”
Thornley said he and his superiors are also enthused that the survey results from River Forest and analysis completed by the National Police Research Platform will be given to them on a monthly basis.