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Police conduct continues to earn high marks

March 9, 2015 - Individuals who have an encounter with an Oak Park police officer are likely to be satisfied with the way they are treated. That's the latest findings of an ongoing, long-term study by the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois Chicago.

The study began here in June 2010 when individuals who had an encounter with Oak Park police were asked to participate in a survey as part of the National Police Research Platform, a program designed to collect data that could help improve police procedures and approaches across the country.

Researchers have continued to monitor Oak Park Police activity, with the latest data snapshot showing that about eight out of 10 respondents say they were satisfied with the experience, regardless of whether officers were called for an incident or initiated the encounter in a traffic stop.

What sets the new data apart from the initial study in 2010, officials say, is the ability to compare Oak Park police to other law enforcement agencies that have since joined the research project. When the project first began, too few agencies were involved to offer valid comparisons among law enforcement agencies. For these latest findings, researchers were able to compare Oak Park with about 100 police departments from across the country.

The survey methodology is simple. When a police report is filed during the research period, a letter is sent to each individual asking them to take a survey. Each letter includes a special code needed to participate in the survey either via automated telephone call or online to ensure that only one survey is completed for each encounter. Encounters that resulted from violent crimes other than robberies or involved juveniles were not part of the survey.

The latest findings, based on encounters between May 19 and October 17, 2014, indicate that satisfaction with the conduct of Oak Park officers is considerably higher than other agencies participating in the study, including those agencies researchers say are comparable to Oak Park in size and other Census-based demographics.

About 76.7 percent of survey respondents who had a police-initiated encounter in Oak Park during the latest survey period said they were very satisfied with the officer’s conduct, compared to 59 percent in the similar jurisdictions and about 58 percent in all agencies participating in the research project.

Results were similar when citizens initiated the police encounter, with Oak Park earning a 77.6 percent very satisfied rating compared to 61 percent in similar jurisdictions and 59.4 percent in all participating jurisdictions.

“We continue to be extremely pleased with what this research is saying about how Oak Park Police officers are perceived by those who they encounter in often stressful, potentially negative situations,” said Oak Park Police Chief Rick C. Tanksley.

“Being stopped for a traffic violation or interviewed by a police officer after a crime has the potential to be a negative experience. But the data gathered and compiled by an independent body shows that our officers are professional, courteous and respectful, qualities we work on every day.”

None of the survey information is collected by the Oak Park Police Department since all survey responses are managed by the UIC researchers. In fact, the Oak Park Police Department does not even know which of its officers' encounters resulted in a survey response, according to Tanksley.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek lauded Tanksley’s willingness to embrace a program that relies on information gathered and interpreted by an independent, third-party that potentially could expose internal problems to intense public review.

"Too often cities fear what studies of this kind could show about how they are perceived by the citizens they serve,” Pavlicek said. “But if we pursue excellence we must be willing to hear the bad along with the good. Knowing how the public perceives their experiences with our Police officers is essential to learning and growing."

When the collaboration with UIC began in 2010, Tanksley said the research was not about individual officers or specific respondents.

“If you want people to get involved in a crime fighting quality of life initiative, there has to be mutual respect between law enforcement and the community,” he said. “Our ongoing participation in this study is about gaining a broader understanding of what is happening on the streets so we can create training programs and approaches that will help us improve the services we provide the community," he said.

In this most recent survey snapshot, satisfaction did not vary by time of day when the citizen initiated encounter occurred, suggesting that all Oak Park Police officers, regardless of shift, responded similarly in all encounters, a testament to training and shared views on conduct and approach, Tanksley said.

 Satisfaction was highest in the citizen-initiated encounters when Police encounters occurred in the home – 95 percent positive – but also very high in other locations, including on the street (89.5 percent) and at the police station (82.7 percent).

Even when crimes were considered against the person, police received high marks (88.2 percent positive). All respondents whose encounter related to a property crime said they were satisfied with the Police response.

Satisfaction levels were higher for Oak Park than other jurisdictions in police-initiated encounters when sorted by gender, race and age. While women and white respondents rated their encounters higher than men and non-white respondents, these individuals still said they were very satisfied with the experience – 87.5 for males and 85 percent for non-whites.

For more information on Oak Park's role in the survey project, call 708.386.3800 or email

Graphic showing satisfaction with the officer in a police-initiated encounter
Police-initiated encounters

Chart indication satisfaction with officer in citizen-initated encounters
Citizen-initiated encounters