Rhode Island State Survey, May 2001

"Assessments of the Rhode Island State Police"

by Darrell West, Taubman Center for Public Policy, Brown University
May, 2001

Table of Contents

  •     Executive Summary
  •     Methodology
  •     Overall Assessments
  •     Breakdowns by Sex
  •     Breakdowns by Race
  •     Breakdowns by Age
  •     Breakdowns by State Residence
  •     Breakdowns by Barracks
  •     Breakdowns by Type of Contact
  •     Improving Highway Safety

Appendix

  1.     Survey Questions and Responses
  2.     Open-Ended Comments on Improving Safety

Executive Summary

This report examines public attitudes towards the Rhode Island State Police. Using telephone interviews conducted May 5-9, 2001 with 372 people who in calendar year 2000 received a traffic citation, filed an accident report, or contacted the State Police to report an incident or offense, we looked at a variety of performance areas: courtesy, demeanor, response time, knowledge, clarity, sense of fairness, and overall service rating. We also asked those who came in contact with the State Police for suggestions about how to improve highway safety. The report was commissioned by the State Police.

Among the highlights of the survey are the following:

        1) 83 percent gave the State Police an excellent or good rating in terms of the overall service that was received,

        2) 88 percent believed the officer(s) they dealt with was courteous, while 92 percent felt the officer(s) had a professional demeanor,

        3) 87 percent thought the State Police was knowledgeable and 86 percent indicated they received clear explanations about what was happening,

        4) 86 percent felt they were treated fairly by the State Police,

        5) 87 percent believed the State Police responded to accidents and offenses in a satisfactory amount of time,

        6) there were few differences in attitudes based on sex, race, or state residence,

        7) there were some age differences with younger people giving the State Police lower marks for overall service, fairness, and courtesy than was the case with older people,

        8) there is some difference in overall service ranking based on barracks. The highest rated barracks was Portsmouth (88 percent), followed by Hope Valley (86 percent), Headquarters and Wickford (tied at 85 percent), Chepachet (79 percent), and Lincoln Woods (78 percent).

        9) individuals receiving traffic citations were the least likely to think they had been treated fairly (77 percent) relative to those involved with accident reports (88 percent) and incident reports (85 percent).

        10) the most common suggestions for improving highway safety were greater visibility, putting more patrol officers on the road, watching for speeders, controlling road rage by drivers, and increasing the number of officers.

Methodology

This study was based on 372 telephone interviews conducted with people who received a traffic citation, filed an accident report, or contacted the State Police to report an incident or offense. Respondents were randomly selected by Taubman Center personnel from the universe of people who dealt with the State Police during calendar year 2000.

Interviews were undertaken by trained and supervised callers at the Taubman Center for Public Policy of Brown University between May 5-9, 2001. Several callbacks were made to people who were not at home at the time of the initial phone call in order to insure that everyone in the sample had a chance to answer the questions.

The margin of error in this survey is around plus or minus 5 percentage points. This means that a percentage of 88 percent could range as low as 83 or as high as 93 percent.

We looked at a variety of performance areas: courtesy, demeanor, response time, knowledge, clarity, sense of fairness, and overall service rating, and asked for suggestions about how to improve highway safety (see Appendix I for list of survey questions and responses).

The characteristics of those responding to this survey is shown below in Table 1:
Table 1: Demographic Description of Survey Respondents

Sex  
-male 58%
-female 38
Age  
-18-24 16
-25-34 21
-35-44 27
-45-54 18
-55-64 8
-65+ 7
Race  
-white 82
-african-american 4
-hispanic 4
-asian-american 2
-native american 2
-other 3
State Residence  
-inside Rhode Island 84
-outside Rhode Island 1

Overall Assessments

We looked at a variety of performance measures in regard to the State Police. As shown in Table 2, the State Police receives high marks across every performance area measured. The highest evaluations came in regard to professional demeanor, where 92 percent felt the officer(s) they dealt with was very professional or professional. Only five percent believed the officer was unprofessional and three percent offered no opinion.

Eighty-eight percent said they officer they dealt with was courteous, while 9 percent said the officer was not courteous, and three percent had no opinion. Eighty-seven percent felt that the officer was knowledgeable (41 percent said very knowledgeable and 46 percent said knowledgeable) while 5 percent said the officer was not knowledgeable and 8 percent gave no opinion.

Of those who filed an accident or incident report, 87 percent were satisfied with the amount of time it took the officer to respond, and 9 percent were not satisfied. Eighty-six percent believed the officer was clear in explaining the situation, 86 percent felt they were treated fairly, and 83 percent gave the State Police an excellent or good rating overall. Nine percent claimed the overall service was only fair, six percent felt it was poor, and 2 percent did not know or gave no answer.

Table 2: Assessments of the Rhode Island State Police

Professional Demeanor 92%
Courtesy 88
Knowledge 87
Satisfactory Response Time on Accidents and Incidents 87
Clarity 86
Fairness 86
Overall Service Rating 83

Breakdowns by Sex

There were no significant gender differences in assessments of the State Police. Table 3 breaks down the views of males and females in assessments of the State Police. For example, in overall service rating, 84 percent of men and women give officers an excellent or good rating. The category where there was the largest difference based on gender was clarity. Ninety percent of women compared to 84 percent of men indicated officers gave them clear explanations of what was happening.

Table 3: State Police Assessments by Sex


Male Female
Professional Demeanor 92% 93%
Courtesy 89 89
Knowledge 88 92
Response Time 88 86
Clarity 84 90
Fairness 87 85
Overall Service Rating 84 84

Breakdowns by Race

There were no significant racial differences in assessments of the State Police. Table 4 breaks down the views of whites and minorities in assessments of the State Police. For example, in overall service rating, 85 percent of whites give officers an excellent or good rating, compared to 79 percent of minorities. There was some difference in intensity of sentiment on overall service ratings. Whites were more likely to give excellent (50 percent) than good (35 percent) ratings, while minorities were more likely to give good (49 percent) than excellent (30 percent) assessments. Eight percent of whites and 16 percent of minorities rated the State Police as only fair, and 6 percent of whites and 5 percent of minorities rated the State Police as poor.

Table 4: State Police Assessments by Race


Whites Minorities
Professional Demeanor 92% 91%
Courtesy 89 88
Knowledge 88 86
Response Time 87 91
Clarity 88 88
Fairness 87 84
Overall Service Rating 85 79

Overall, older people give the State Police higher marks than younger people (see Table 5). While 96 percent of those 65 years and older rate officers excellent or good, only 67 percent of those 18 to 24 years old do. Younger respondents are less likely to say their treatment was fair (79 percent) than senior citizens (96 percent). Those aged 18 to 24 are less likely to say officers were courteous (79 percent) compared to those 65 years and older (96 percent).

Table 5: State Police Assessments by Age


18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Demeanor 86% 92% 91% 97% 91% 96%
Courtesy 79 94 89 88 87 96
Knowledge 81 91 89 90 90 85
Response Time 85 91 85 84 88 92
Clarity 79 92 83 88 90 88
Fairness 79 95 84 87 84 96
Overall

Rating

67 88 87 84 84 96

Breakdowns by State Residence

There were few significant differences in assessments of the State Police based on whether the person lived inside or outside of Rhode Island. Table 6 breaks down the overall service rating by state residence. Eighty-three percent of those living in Rhode Island give officers an excellent or good rating, compared to 85 percent of those living outside the state. Non-Rhode Island residents, however, were more satisfied with response time. Ninety-six percent of those indicated they were satisfied with the amount of time it took the State Police to respond, compared to 86 percent of those living within the state.

Table 6: State Police Assessments by Residence

Rhode Island Outside Rhode Island
Professional Demeanor 92% 98%
Courtesy 88 95
Knowledge 87 95
Response Time 86 96
Clarity 86 88
Fairness 86 85
Overall Service Rating 83 85

Breakdowns by Barracks

There is some difference in overall service ranking based on barracks. As shown in Table 7, the most highly rated barracks was Portsmouth (88 percent), followed by Hope Valley (86 percent), Headquarters and Wickford (tied at 85 percent), Chepachet (79 percent), and Lincoln Woods (78 percent).

In terms of fairness, the barracks ranking included: Portsmouth and Wickford (tied at 92 percent), Lincoln Woods (88 percent), Headquarters (84 percent), Chepachet (83 percent), and Hope Valley (80 percent).

Table 7: State Police Assessments by Barracks

Chepachet4 Hope Valley Lincoln Woods Portsmouth Wickford Headquarters
Demeanor 92% 91% 88% 95% 93% 94%
Courtesy 85 88 87 90 89 97
Knowledge 86 91 87 82 91 91
Response Time 83 87 87 83 91 100
Clarity 86 87 82 88 86 91
Fairness 83 80 88 92 92 84
Overall

Rating

79 86 78 88 85 85

Breakdowns by Type of Contact

There are some differences in State Police assessments based on whether the contact was a traffic citation, accident report, or incident report (see Table 8). Overall service ratings were higher for accident and incident reports (84 percent each) compared to traffic citations (77 percent). And individuals receiving traffic citations were the least likely to think they had been treated fairly (77 percent) relative to those involved with accident reports (88 percent) and incident reports (85 percent).

Table 8: State Police Assessments by Type of Contact

Traffic Citation Accident Report Incident Report
Demeanor 94% 92% 91%
Courtesy 94 86 91
Knowledge 85 86 92
Response Time NA 88 83
Clarity 92 85 87
Fairness 79 88 85
Overall

Rating

77 84 84

Improving Highway Safety

In order to give respondents a chance to make suggestions, we asked them what the State Police could do to improve highway safety. Appendix II lists all of their suggestions. The most common suggestions that were made included: greater visibility, putting more patrol officers on the road, watching for speeders, controlling road rage by drivers, and increasing number of officers. A number of people did not answer the question or felt the State Police already was doing a lot of improve safety.

Appendix I. Survey Questions and Responses

Hello, I'm calling from the Center for Public Policy at Brown University. Can I speak to _____? We are conducting a study of people's experience with the Rhode Island State Police, and we'd really appreciate your help. (if individual not home, terminate interview politely and ask when you can call back).

Do not ask, but code gender of respondent: 58% male, 38% female, 4% don't know

In your dealings with the Rhode Island State Police this past year, were you treated courteously by the officer(s) you dealt with? 88% yes, 9% no, 3% don't know or no answer

Was the trooper's demeanor at the time 49% very professional, 43% professional, 5% unprofessional, 3% don't know or no answer

If you called to file an offense report or were involved in an accident, were you satisfied with the amount of time it took to respond? 87% yes, 9% no, 4% don't know or no answer

Would you say the trooper you dealt with was: 41% very knowledgeable, 46% knowledgeable, 5% not very knowledgeable, 8% don't know or no answer

Did you receive a clear explanation about what was happening? 86% yes, 11% no, 3% don't know or no answer

Did you feel you were treated fairly? 86% yes, 11% no, 3% don't know or no answer

How would you rate the overall service you received? 47% excellent, 36% good, 9% only fair, 6% poor, 2% don't know or no answer

What can the Rhode Island State Police do to improve the safety on our highways? (open-ended responses)

Which of the following age group are you in? 16% 18-24, 21% 25-34, 27% 35-44, 18% 45-54, 8% 55-64, 7% 65 or older, 3% no answer

Are you: 82% white, 4% African-American, 4% Hispanic, 2% Asian-American, 2% Native American, 3% other, 3% don't know or no answer

Do not ask, but code from top of call sheet whether person: 13% received traffic citation, 51% filed accident report, 34% filed offense report, 2% don't know

Do not ask, but code from top of call sheet whether state police barracks was: 19% SPC State Police Chepachet, 21% SPHV State Police Hope Valley, 15% SPLW State Police Lincoln Woods, 16% SPP State Police Portsmouth, 19% SPW State Police Wickford, 9% SPHQ State Police Headquarters, 1% don't know

Appendix II. Suggestions for Improving Highway Safety

  •     No suggestions
  •     Don't know
  •     Don't know
  •     No suggestion
  •     No suggestions
  •     Don't rear-end us civilians. Watch where you're driving... y
  •     No suggestions
  •     Increase officers on patrol
  •     No suggestions
  •     No suggestions at this time.
  •     They should react more promptly to hazardous situations on o
  •     No suggestions.
  •     No suggestions.
  •     Stop people when they see them on the sides of highways.
  •     More police.
  •     Increase patrol.
  •     They're is nothing that can be said. They are already doing
  •     They already do a pretty good job.
  •     They're already doing a good job.
  •     It's the people who are creating the problem, they should re
  •     Make people slow down.
  •     They are already doing a good job.
  •     Random car stops. Check for driver's license more oten.
  •     Be more efficient.
  •     At the time of an accident, get both sides of the story and
  •     Keep a close eye on people who are under the influence of al
  •     No suggestions.
  •     Improve the time they take to get to the accident point.
  •     Well on one hand you have people who drive too slow... they
  •     Catch the guys that go really fast - especially those people
  •     Fix pot-holes - I had a flat tire due to a pot hole, which l
  •     No answer
  •     They're already doing a good job with patrolling the highway
  •     Control erratic driving by police and by others.
  •     Road construction at high traffic hours without warning - ma
  •     Be around more to catch people who run red lights dangerousl
  •     Don't pull commuters over for speeding during rush hour.
  •     Be more visible.
  •     A lot of stuff slides by... so many violations or dangerous
  •     Quit racial profiling. On any given day, at the Connecticut
  •     They're doing a fine job already... I have no suggestions
  •     Get rid of the cars --- too much traffic
  •     Have more troopers posted where I-95 merges with I-4
  •     No comment
  •     Does not think the highways are that bad
  •     Check that are kids and other passengers are wearing seatbel
  •     Put more police cars out on the road
  •     Try harder to prevent road rage
  •     don't know
  •     Put more troopers on the road
  •     patrol more and be seen more
  •     dont know
  •     the speed limit changes drastically
  •     they are doing a good job, cant think of anything they could
  •     dont know
  •     no idea
  •     not up to them, but could improve maintainance on I-95
  •     nothing
  •     maintenance of the highway is important, but doesnt see how
  •     not speeding themselves. it would improve their visibility a
  •     dont know, feels that the highways are as safe as they can b
  •     nab drunk drivers, especially in Newport
  •     dont know
  •     enforce drunk driving laws
  •     enforce speed limit and laws
  •     dont know
  •     dont know
  •     nothing
  •     they do a good job
  •     patrol more
  •     give more tickets for cell phones and illegal lane changes
  •     dont know
  •     the state police can stop speeding themselves
  •     more patrolling
  •     nothing
  •     dont know
  •     Plow it in the winter.
  •     This would take me a couple weeks to brainstorm ... for now,
  •     If pulling someone over, please go completely off the road..
  •     Watch out for and clear debris on highways and on-ramps. The
  •     Treat people more equally... people I've known who were stop
  •     No suggestions
  •     Mark their cars or put more marked cars on the road... becau
  •     More policemen - they're understaffed. I'm a retired policem
  •     The State Police should be honest... but I don't know how or
  •     none
  •     depends on the drivers
  •     none
  •     no suggestions
  •     there could stand to be more of them
  •     none
  •     stricter laws about DWI (including drugs), truck driver laws
  •     put more troopers on highways. scare people into driving slo
  •     shouldn't cut people off when they are trying to stop speede
  •     none
  •     none
  •     stop harrassing regular guys - no quotas.
  •     ROAD CONDITIONS SHOULD BE IMPROVED
  •     don't know
  •     they do fine
  •     i don't know
  •     i don't know
  •     speed traps
  •     less pseeding tickets
  •     watch out for speeding
  •     get the drunk people off the road
  •     be more careful and extensive in monitoring for speeding
  •     be more polite
  •     stay off the highway
  •     no idea.
  •     Stop the speeders.
  •     Straigten out Servers (spelling?) Avenue.
  •     They are fine.
  •     Highways are pretty safe as it is. They should stop Racial P
  •     not try to intimdate and humiliate.
  •     Nothing.
  •     Slow traffic down.
  •     Less traffic violations.
  •     No answer.
  •     Salt the roads more.
  •     Give tickets to people who drive too slow. More routine patr
  •     Keep the road debris free.
  •     He feels that speeding is a problem.
  •     No answer.
  •     No Answer.
  •     Be out more during peak hours
  •     No Answer.
  •     No Answer
  •     No Answer
  •     They are doing great, everything within their power they are
  •     enforce speed limit and laws
  •     dont know
  •     dont know
  •     nothing
  •     they do a good job
  •     patrol more
  •     give more tickets for cell phones and illegal lane changes
  •     dont know
  •     the state police can stop speeding themselves
  •     more patrolling
  •     nothing
  •     dont know
  •     more traffic signals particularly route 1
  •     increase presence
  •     when they stop people of color they should treat them like h
  •     don't park on the side of the road anymore because they caus
  •     don't know
  •     control speeding
  •     stay off the highways during rush hour
  •     enforce the set laws better
  •     enforce the speed limit more
  •     put more troopers on the highways
  •     monitor speeding better
  •     no comment
  •     road rage
  •     nothing
  •     Don't treat people rudely when they ask for help and be on t
  •     They could be hiding out more along the highways. Everyone k
  •     stop drunk driving, stop those who speed, drive without regi
  •     Nothing I can think of at the moment
  •     No complaints at all
  •     Younger drivers - keep an eye on them... not just on highway
  •     No idea
  •     Be consistent with stopping people - Some people don't get s
  •     Control road rage
  •     Increase availability in areas where there are no State Poli
  •     Be aware of aggresive drivers. High speeds are okay as long
  •     I'm satisfied with the quality of the State Police in the Wa
  •     No clue
  •     don't know
  •     just bethere when needed
  •     be morevisible
  •     don't have toom any interactions with them and cannot say
  •     less patrools and interaction
  •     don't know
  •     more exposure of them
  •     put more troopers
  •     dont know
  •     be more visible, but they're doing just fine now too
  •     more patrools cars
  •     be more visible
  •     they're doing just fine
  •     put more troopers on the roads
  •     be more visible
  •     i don't know
  •     no opinion
  •     doesn't know
  •     does not agree with the new policies and laws pertaining to
  •     get more of those undercover people
  •     doesn't like the way they lay and wait to trap people, have
  •     too much speeding, crack down on it
  •     doesn't know, could be a lot more courteous to all people
  •     post more patrol cars
  •     crack down on aggresive driving
  •     has no idea
  •     provide better markers for barriers
  •     doesn't know
  •     doesn't know
  •     enforcing the speeding and the seat belt laws
  •     no answer
  •     go after agressive drivers and tailgaters.
  •     get rid of the senior citizens
  •     treat people who are younger the same as they treat older pe
  •     raise the speed limit and not give tickets
  •     they do a very good job
  •     no opinion
  •     no immediate answer
  •     don't know
  •     Give tickets to people who don't use signals.
  •     No comments.
  •     No suggestions.
  •     No comments.
  •     I'm already satisfied with what they do.
  •     They're already doing a good job.
  •     I'm not sure.
  •     More police enforcement.
  •     That's a tough one. I can't say.
  •     More undercover cars on the highway.
  •     Stay off them.
  •     make the roads better.
  •     Watch out for speeders and tailgaters.
  •     Feel the state police do a great job, in general, keep up wi
  •     They could stop driving on them!
  •     No Answer
  •     No answer
  •     road conditions
  •     No answer
  •     Woman is afraid of uniforms after growing up in India. She t
  •     The highway are very safe as they are. State Police do a gre
  •     no response
  •     more training
  •     no response
  •     no response
  •     be on rte 10 and 95 between 6 and 7 am to enforce the speed
  •     don't pick up jackets in the middle of the road caused an ac
  •     watch people talking on cell phones, especially young driver
  •     no response
  •     don't know
  •     no answer
  •     no answer
  •     get lunatics off highways
  •     they need more policemen on the road because people are so i
  •     add a lane to 146
  •     get old people and recent people from country off the roads
  •     should be nicer to people so people won't get nervous around
  •     should be more checks on friday and saturday around midnight
  •     doing good job
  •     think they're doing a good job
  •     monitor speed at night
  •     more radar stops, but are satisfied
  •     no ideas
  •     doing their job
  •     teach the people in the cars that motorcylces can't stop for
  •     make their presence more known
  •     thinks it's OK now
  •     be more visable - slow people down
  •     need more patrols,need to have more cars on the highways to
  •     Do something about the DOT and keeping the roads clear. Many
  •     don't know.
  •     More speed traps, people are going to fast.
  •     nothing
  •     not really using the highways.
  •     The patrols should be increased in order to be a deterant.
  •     DON'T KNOW
  •     ok
  •     less speed traps
  •     nothing
  •     nothing
  •     Nothing
  •     Regardless of seriousness of accident, all info should be ta
  •     Fix the Roads!
  •     Nothing really
  •     No idea
  •     Control road rage - people are so impatient and unforgiv ing
  •     Set up a commission to research what safety improvements can
  •     Reduce the towing fee.
  •     Nothing I can think of... I think they're already handling t
  •     Control drunk driving
  •     Be more visible
  •     No answer
  •     Don't know
  •     When pulling someone over, don't do it in the middle of the
  •     No idea
  •     More presence - he doesn't enough of them around
  •     eliminate straightening out (?)
  •     i don't know, nothing
  •     more patrools
  •     not to pull people over that often for no violations
  •     speeding limitations
  •     speeding
  •     i don't know
  •     more patrools
  •     i don't know
  •     road raging limitations
  •     nothing
  •     can't do anything
  •     can't do anything
  •     cell phones limitations
  •     road rage attention speeding limitations
  •     make sure people use seatbelts
  •     they are doing enough
  •     they should listen to both sides of the automobile accident
  •     better manage out of state drivers and trailer trucks that b
  •     they should crack down on people not signaling, minor infrac
  •     take all the men off the roads
  •     not sure
  •     road construction is a problem, better notification to drive
  •     don't know
  •     not quite sure
  •     can't think of anything
  •     the highways are safe already
  •     nothing more than what they're doing. they're doing an excel
  •     make sure people wear seat belts
  •     i don't know
  •     nothing, they're doing a pretty good job. likes the idea of
  •     stop road construction in the middle of the day
  •     I don't know
  •     Doing a good job
  •     need more state police to monitor what is going on
  •     Don't know
  •     Leave it as it is
  •     They do an excellent job, drivers need to be improved
  •     Increase monitoring of speeding
  •     Everything is fine
  •     Take the cell phones away from drivers
  •     crack down on truck drivers who are careless
  •     watching out for speed limit violators
  •     doing what they need to do
  •     doing all they can do
  •     don't know
  •     CHANGE on/of ramps because they cause accidents
  •     stop more people who are speeding to prevent accidents
  •     make sure roads are cleared after accidents to prevent other
  •     don't know
  •     Continue to highways to make sure people drive safely
  •     have been doing well as far as she knows
  •     Better communication with driver about situation (e.g why be
  •     don't know
  •     Nothing to say.
  •     More enforcement to control speed control.
  •     There should be speed control. If the speed limit is 55 mile
  •     Nothing to say.
  •     Nothing to say.
  •     No comments.
  •     Not sure.
  •     I'm not sure. I'm not a resident of Rhode Island.
  •     As far as I can say is that you can give out more tickets.
  •     That's a togh question. Only had one encounter with an offic
  •     I don't now. I didn't have that much experience, besides one
  •     I don't know.
  •     nothing
  •     improve roads
  •     no comment
  •     dont know
  •     dont know
  •     road quality
Darrell M. West