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Survey On Attitudes Toward Bloomington Police Useful Despite Apparent Data Manipulation

Mike Matejka
Mike Matejka from the Not In Our Town group. An effort to gauge citizen views of the Bloomington Police Department by the PSCRB and Not In Our Town has had mixed results.

A survey designed to find out how Bloomington residents feel about their police department came back with some odd data that calls into question the reliability of the effort. But those who conducted the survey said there remain useful elements from the responses.

The online survey drew more than 11,000 responses, which would be great participation under most scenarios, said Mike Matejka, co-chair of the Not In Our Town group in Bloomington-Normal. That's an an anti-discrimination and anti-racism movement. Matejka said 2% participation or even 500 people is usually a healthy response rate.

Matejka said he suspected there were efforts to sway the results. Most of the responses were from people who identified themselves as African American women aged 25-30. Almost all of the respondents, 97%, said they thought the Bloomington Police Department has been doing an exceptional job. Matejka said those trends in the data are far different than the demographic characteristics of the community. According to the U. S. Census, Bloomington has a population of 76,724 individuals. Just over 10% of that population is African American, coming to over 7,700, far less than the number of respondents who identified themselves as African American.

Not everything in the survey response data is suspect. Matejka said there were about 400 comments. Some of them were ideological, from the left and the right. But he said a surprising number will be useful to the city.

“I would say there is about 200+ responses that people really took their time and were thoughtful. Either recounting incidents they had with police or offering suggestions, which I think the city of Bloomington and the police department will find value,” said Matejka.

Matejka said one theme is concern that multiple police squad cars respond to calls, even non critical calls, in areas that have a high Black population. Matejka said another strand of thought in the comments noted that police have to take on the burden of being first responders to those who need mental health support..

“We need to have social services that can respond to problems. We need to find a way to coordinate police response in nonviolent situations with a response unit that is not a police unit,” said Matejka, describing the feedback.

The Public Safety Community Relations Board said Thursday it will release all the data in July.

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