6 Best Practices for Creating Police-Citizen Satisfaction Surveys

Agencies need a reliable method for measuring citizen satisfaction. Learn how to measure citizen satisfaction easier and faster than you thought possible.

April 25, 2024

Article Highlights

Law enforcement agencies serve and protect their communities. That’s why they exist, and it’s an honorable calling that requires sacrifice and dedication.

Serving a community well also requires empathy. Every community is unique, comprised of different people, cultures, backgrounds, and histories.

The truth is, unique communities need creative solutions. Adhering to best practices and accreditation standards will get agencies 70% of the way there, but the remaining 30% requires adaptive solutions.

The only way to close the 30% gap is by listening to understand, engaging citizens, and adapting services to their unique needs. How can your agency accomplish this? How can you track the effectiveness of police-citizen interactions? How can you showcase the quality of your agency’s services?

It starts with a reliable method of collecting citizen feedback and measuring citizen satisfaction. In this article, we will explore the importance of citizen satisfaction and how you can accurately measure it with police-citizen satisfaction surveys.

Importance of citizen satisfaction metrics

In law enforcement, citizen satisfaction is how an individual perceives their interaction with an officer. A single person’s satisfaction is variable. It may fluctuate over time as he or she interacts with more or different officers, and it may differ drastically from one person to another.

A single citizen's feedback and satisfaction can provide valuable insight into one-off interactions with police officers. When aggregated, the details of these encounters reveal patterns that can identify gaps in training, improve services, and showcase everything your agency is doing well.

Community satisfaction is the average satisfaction of citizens across a city or county. This measurement is less variable and provides a holistic view of satisfaction across the community.

Both metrics are valuable for law enforcement agencies, providing different levels of insight that can help agencies understand and serve their constituents. As these metrics improve, trust grows. The trick is tracking them effectively so you can prove your impact and justify more resource allocation.

Although many agencies collect citizen feedback, most feedback tools leave you wondering “Is the result worth the effort?” Most are time-consuming, requiring manual setup or planning. And instead of promoting productive feedback, they seem to attract complaints almost exclusively and have low response rates.

Fortunately there’s a solution: police-citizen satisfaction surveys.

5 Best practices for creating effective surveys

1. Understand the Objective

What type of information are you trying to collect? What do you hope to accomplish with it? Here are a few types of measurements you may be interested in:

  • Overall satisfaction
  • Trust and confidence
  • Quality of service
  • Perceptions of safety
  • Bias and fairness

Your objective impacts your survey questions, format, medium, and tool. Most departments want specific feedback about certain types of police-citizen interactions. That would be our recommendation as well, instead of sending open-response surveys. 

2. Select the Right Channel

Modernize your survey delivery to save time and improve results. You could share surveys via email campaigns, QR codes, social media links, online platforms, text messages, and more.

In the smartphone era, people expect systems to be easy and mobile-friendly. By choosing a survey tool that sends surveys via text message, you can increase response rates.

3. Create Strategic Questions

A survey is only as effective as its questions. Create categories based on the survey’s objective and brainstorm questions for each category that could provide the measurements you’re looking for. Then prioritize the best questions.

Make sure your survey tool allows you to customize the survey questions, because not all do. It may also limit question types, but generally speaking, a mix of questions keeps the survey engaging and provides different types of data.

Questions should be ordered logically, use simple and clear language, and phrased in a neutral way (no leading questions). Here are some specific questions worth including in your survey.

4. Format the Survey Effectively

Survey length will depend on the medium. Generally speaking, text surveys should be shorter. Email campaigns or social media posts directing citizens to an online survey can be longer.

Similarly, make sure your survey tool allows you to customize the length of your survey. Too many questions will lower your response rate. Too few questions may not provide the information you need.

Consider mobile devices when formatting your survey and determining length. A survey requiring “endless” scrolling won’t perform well. To minimize scrolling on longer surveys, consider separating questions onto multiple pages.

5. Choose Frequency & Timing

When it comes to police-citizen satisfaction surveys, sooner is usually better, while memory of the interaction is fresh. Automated text surveys have an advantage here. With the right tool, you can have surveys sent to citizens who match certain CAD or RMS data criteria. This improves the quality, timeliness, and rate of responses.

6. Analyze Survey Results

If you can’t analyze the survey results easily, what’s the point of the survey? Find a solution that aggregates survey data into a real time dashboard, making it easy for you to track and report on citizen satisfaction over time.

How to choose the best survey tool

Citizen satisfaction surveys are automated tools for collecting a person’s feedback and measuring their satisfaction after an interaction with law enforcement.

The best survey tools will automatically send text surveys to citizens after an interaction. The survey goes directly to their phone for maximum ease-of-use and higher response rates. If you use a tool that integrates with your CAD or RMS systems, then you can set additional criteria around who receives a survey (based on the type of incident).

PowerEngage, a Citizen Engagement Software, has each of the features above and more. Our police-citizen satisfaction surveys have a 37% response rate – three times higher than average. It also lets you track citizen satisfaction trends over time, aggregating that data into a score called the ​​Citizen Positive Satisfaction Score (CPSS). Fun fact: 90% of PowerEngage customers have a 90% CPSS score or higher.

Learn how PowerEngage can empower your agency to collect citizen feedback, better understand community needs, improve agency services, and prove your agency’s positive impact.

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