OPINION: Meriden police survey can be a valuable part of ongoing conversation

For better or for worse, we are a super surveyed society these days. Just about anything can come with a survey.

After I returned from a recent trip, the airline wanted to know: how was your experience? — and asked a lot of detailed questions about how I was treated. When you get on the line with some form of customer service you’re often asked before you’ve even had a conversation about whether you’d be willing to respond about how it went.

You wonder what happens with all this information. I tend to give very high marks, because I don’t want to get anyone into trouble. I imagine there are those who respond the opposite way, out of a general grumpiness. How do those extremes get factored in?

The digital world makes this all easy. Whether it’s doing any good is an open question. Maybe we need a super survey about it.

The City of Meriden recently presented an online survey that lets residents answer questions about trust in the police department. You may remember that this has been a subject of some unease, with the City Council having set up a Use of Force Committee and then a civilian review board. Communities throughout the nation have wrestled with the issue, particularly since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the protests that ensued.

The tendency to approach issues in a polarizing way has not helped. As city resident John M. Talbot observed in a recent opinion piece (“Another police survey?” R-J, 2/10/22) you can both support police and support review boards like the one established in Meriden. It doesn’t have to be an either/or question.

Having said that, I would have suggested a more either/or approach in this recent survey. The first question, for example, asks “when it comes to the threat of crime, how safe do you feel in your neighborhood?” and there are 11 possible responses, ranging from zero, which is not safe at all, and 10, which is completely safe. I don’t know how you make a choice between three and four, or seven and eight, and so on. There is, at least, an opportunity to write in a comment box and offer specifics about problems in your neighborhood.

The survey, in Spanish as well as English, is part of services purchased from Zencity with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. As the Record-Journal reported, the total Zencity expenditure is $147,000.

Reports will be issued monthly and the public will be able to see them on the police department’s website. That’s an important element, because rather than a comprehensive assessment of the public’s support for police the survey can be viewed as a valuable part of an ongoing conversation.

Police Chief Roberto Rosado called it “another tool in the box” when it comes to measuring performance. Said City Manager Tim Coon: “It’s just one more thing to enhance transparency and understand what’s going on in the community.”

You can check out the survey at https://www.meridenct.gov/announcements/community-voice-survey-public-safety-and-law-enforcement/. There’s a brief introduction by Michael Cardona, who is a city councilor and deputy mayor. As the R-J’s  Lauren Sellew reported, residents will be invited to participate through digital ads “in locations including news websites, social media platforms, blogs and apps.”

You can probably tell I’m no expert when it comes to surveys, but as flawed as it may be this is an effort to reach out. As Cardona says in his brief intro: “We look forward to hearing from our community on how to best support one another.”

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.










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