“Survey Assessments of Police Performance” In Mike Hough and Mike
Maxfield (eds.), Surveying Crime in the 21st Century. Crime Prevention
Studies, 22 (2007), 165-181.
This article considers the British Crime Survey (BCS) as a vehicle for monitoring
police performance. The BCS has two complimentary foci on the police: monitoring
reports of general confidence in the police and tracking encounters between police and
the public. These raise substantive and methodological issues, and have implications
for survey design. Among these are response validity, or the issue of whether
"confidence" questions actually reflect the quality of policing on the ground. We also
need to ensure that the measurement process measures what it does with maximal
accuracy. This paper reviews validity and reliability issues in the context of assessing
general confidence and tracking public encounters with the police. It calls for a program
of methodological research to document the error structure of the data and guide
improvements and decisions about key features of the survey.