AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: Despite decades of declining crime rates, longstanding tensions between police and the public continue to frustrate the formation of cooperative relationships necessary for the function of the police and the provision of public safety. In response, policy makers continue to promote community-oriented policing (COP) and its emphasis on positive, non-enforcement contact with the public as an effective strategy for enhancing public trust and police legitimacy. Prior research designs, however, have not leveraged the random assignment of police-public contact to identify the causal effect of such interactions on individual-level attitudes toward the police. Therefore, the question remains: Do positive, non-enforcement interactions with uniformed patrol officers actually cause meaningful improvements in attitudes toward the police? Here, we report on a randomized field experiment conducted in New Haven, CT, that sheds light on this question and identifies the individual-level consequences of positive, non-enforcement contact between police and the public. Findings indicate that a single instance of positive contact with a uniformed police officer can substantially improve public attitudes toward police, including legitimacy and willingness to cooperate. These effects persisted for up to 21 days and were not limited to individuals pre-disposed to trust and cooperate with the police prior to the intervention. This study demonstrates that positive non-enforcement contact can improve public attitudes toward police and suggests that police departments would benefit from an increased focus on strategies that promote positive police-public interactions.
Kyle Peyton is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Yale University and a Graduate Affiliate in the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. His research studies topics at the intersection of social psychology, politics, and public policy, primarily through the use of randomized experiments and field research. He has an MA in Statistics and Data Science from Yale, and an undergraduate degree from the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. Before graduate school, Kyle worked in social policy research as a Research Fellow in the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at the University of Melbourne.
This workshop is open only to Yale faculty, students, and professional staff.