One-on-one, citizens like way Oak Park cops do their job

Ongoing UIC study has been tracking satisfaction with village cops


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Nearly three-fourths of people who have had an encounter with the Oak Park Police Department have been "very satisfied," according to early results from a long-term study of the local force.

Since June, the University of Illinois at Chicago has been monitoring the police department's interactions with the public. Researchers from the school have mailed out surveys asking for reactions after citizens have communicated with local police.

After compiling 327 surveys, 72.5 percent of respondents said they were "very satisfied" with the way they were treated by the police, while 14.2 percent said they were "somewhat satisfied." The survey also found that 95 percent of people surveyed felt the officer was polite, and 95 percent thought the officer knew what he or she was doing.

Police Chief Rick Tanksley said Monday he felt "really good" about the survey results.

"We come in contact with people, usually under less-than-ideal situations," Tanksley said. "They've been involved in an accident, they've been a victim of a crime, and the traffic stop always causes anxiety with people. But we teach our officers to recognize this so that as long as you're professional in your approach, it can make that experience a little bit better for the citizen."

Police are always interacting with the public, and it's difficult to gauge how well they're doing, Tanksley said. Citizen complaints aren't always a reliable source of information, he added.

Village Manager Tom Barwin, himself a former police officer, thinks the survey sets a good foundation for the police and public to work together.

"I'd put those numbers up against anyone in the country," he said.

The 327 contacts occurred between June 13 and Dec. 7 and included traffic stops, traffic crashes and crime reports. Certain crimes, such as those involving juveniles or sexual assaults, were not included in the study.

Everyone subjected to a traffic stop, victimized in a crime or made the secondary party in a traffic accident was sent a survey by UIC's researchers.

UIC has also conducted research in River Forest, as well as two police districts in Boston. Dennis Rosenbaum, director of the national program and a professor of criminology at UIC, could not be reached for comment Monday.

In the latest results out of River Forest, 68.7 percent of respondents said they were "very satisfied" with their interaction with the police, while 10.8 percent said they were "somewhat satisfied."

Tanksley plans to discuss the results of the survey with the police force in upcoming meetings in early 2011. Nothing about the data concerned him, but he wants to better understand certain responses. For instance, why did 20.7 percent of those surveyed believe the officer did not "show concern"?

"I think something like this is great, because how can you engage citizens in the crime-fighting initiative if you can't evaluate, or you're afraid to evaluate, what kind of relationship you have with them, and what areas you need to improve upon?" he said. "Police chiefs cannot be afraid of data like this. I think we need to embrace it."

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Reader Comments

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JMK from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2010 3:08 PM

Of the total 327 survey takers..How many were White and how many were minorities?

JMK from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2010 9:17 AM

I am confused with the last two results listed from the survey regarding ticket or no ticket and the racial make up of respondents. Shouldn't they total 100%? What am I missing

Jorge from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2010 7:58 AM

I've had many experiences with the OP police ranging from getting a traffic violation, to reporting a stolen bicycle, reporting suspicious persons, and even reporting a break-in in my building as it occurred. Their response time amazes me and their fair, professional, and courteous demeanor always leaves me with the feeling that they really care about OP. This encourages me to be more pro-active in helping them keep OP safe because they've proven time and time again, that they have our backs.

Melissa from Oak Park  

Posted: December 14th, 2010 9:46 AM

I have attended all the Parent Cafes in Oak Park/River Forest where concerned parents, community members and leaders discuss how to solve the teen substance abuse issue at OPRF High School. At every meeting police officers show up to provide support, information, and input. They care very much about the safety and well-being of our kids!

Paul M from Oak Park  

Posted: December 13th, 2010 4:20 PM

I have only had positive interactions with the OP Police Department - this includes being stopped for a violation and helping me find my lost dog. Both ended well. They were truly happy that they helped us find our dog that ran away. Helps me justify the taxes I pay in Oak Park.

Jim A. Major from The OP  

Posted: December 10th, 2010 2:28 PM

I for one am very proud of our fantastic police department. I support them in any way that I can. One of the best ways to learn how you can help the police better protect the community is to go to the Oak Park Police Department's website. There you will find lots of helpful information, crime prevention tips and my favorite, Resident Beat Officer [RBO] Program. This gives citizens An opportunity once a month to meet with neighbors and of course your area's Resident Beat Officer. Oak Park is a great place to live and is so full of wonderful People who want to do their part in backing those who put their lives on the line day and night. Please spread the word about RBO. Support your police Department. Look out for each other and stay safe!

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