“Asymmetry in the Impact of Encounters with Police.” Police & Society, Vol. 6 (No. 2,
June), 99-126.

This article examines the impact of personal experience on popular assessments of the
quality of police service.  Following past research, it addresses the influences of personal and
neighborhood factors on confidence in the police.  It then focuses on the additional impact of
positive and negative personal experiences with the police.  Several studies of police
encounters with the public have noted that the relationship between how people recall being
treated and their general confidence in the police may be asymmetrical.  At its worst, the
police may get essentially no credit for delivering professional service, while bad experiences
can deeply influence peoples’ views of their performance and even legitimacy.  This
proposition is tested using survey data on police-initiated and citizen-initiated contacts with
police in Chicago.  The findings indicate that the impact of having a bad experience is four to
fourteen times as great as that of having a positive experience, and the coefficients
associated with having a good experience–including being treated fairly and politely, and
receiving service that was prompt and helpful–were not statistically different from zero.  
Another section of the article replicates this finding using surveys of residents of seven other
urban areas located in three different countries.  The article concludes that this is bad news
indeed for police administrators intent on solidifying their support among voters, taxpayers
and the consumers of public service.
Police-Public Encounters Abstracts