Online survey reveals public’s perception of law enforcement in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association’s findings discuss policing and racial justice
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Published: May. 4, 2022 at 10:46 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) released their 10th annual survey regarding the state of law enforcement as perceived by the public. The online survey included 1,119 respondents who answered questions in February of 2022.

“Basically its’ been a wonderful exercise in listening and learning and evolving,” said Jim Palmer, executive director of the WPAA.

Many of the questions dealt with law enforcement and racial justice. For example, the survey asked: “have racial protests helped or hurt efforts to increase racial justice?”

According to the WPPA survey, overall, 37% of respondents said the protests have helped while 51% say they have hurt.

If you break that down even further:

  • 32% of white respondents said the protests have helped.
  • 63% of non-white respondents said the protests have helped.

Seventy percent of the people surveyed said the law enforcement’s highest priority is keeping the community safe from crime. Respondents also noted that they consider drug addiction to be the biggest problem in their community.

“This year we learned that people continue to feel that public safety and keeping our community safe from crime ought to be local government’s priority,” said Palmer.

Here are some more notable results from the WPPA survey:

“Overall, how do you rate your local police force?”

  • 77% approve
  • 19% disapprove

“How much respect to you have for police in your community?”

  • White: 64% said “a great deal”
  • Non-white: 42% said “a great deal”

“Social unrest due to police actions is justified.”

  • Agree: 36%
  • Disagree: 51%

“How much of a problem do you feel racism is in society?”

  • White: 34% said “a major problem”
  • Non-white: 57% said “a major problem”

“Police violence against blacks in Wisconsin”

  • White: 21% said the issue was “extremely serious”
  • Non-white 50% said the issue was “extremely serious”

“It was a little concerning that a majority of minorities, according to our poll, appeared to believe that most of the individuals shot by Wisconsin law enforcement officers are people of color and that they are unarmed,” said Palmer “And in fact, we know because we track the data and have publicly reported it over the last decade, that that is simply not the case. In fact, last year alone, 100% of the fatal shootings involving officers in Wisconsin involved an induvial that was armed,”

The survey also found that people believed gun violence was the number cause of on-duty deaths for Wisconsin law enforcement officers. However, in 2021, the leading cause of death was COVID-19. Five law enforcement officers in Wisconsin died in the line of duty in 2021, four of them from COVID-19.

“Perhaps not surprising, officers interact with the public every single day and I think agencies around the state did a very good job of equipping officers appropriately,” said Palmer. “But they still had to carry out their duties with some amount of risk and it has resulted in additional deaths that we haven’t seen in the past,”

According to the National Law Enforcement Museum, 458 officers died in the line of duty in 2021. That’s a 55% increase from the year before. According to the report’s findings, 301 officers died from COVID-19. There were 62 firearm-related deaths among law enforcement in 2021.

The WPPA report also touched on having officers in schools and budgetary considerations.

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