Columbia Police say results of a “customer service” survey launched last spring show a satisfaction rate of more than 90 percent. Reporters Samantha Sunne and Youyou Zhou explain how the survey was conducted and how well it represents the community.
“Customer satisfaction” survey part of Columbia police PR push
By Samantha Sunne and Youyou Zhou
On Saturday, Dec. 3, when Columbia Police Officer Curtis Brown issued a warning to a driver who had run a stop sign in north Columbia, his speech sounded like something he’s done for years.
“Slow down, stop,” he said through the pickup truck window. “That’s what it’s there for, alright?”
But when Brown moved on to the second part of his speech, it was something new that was added this past spring. He handed the woman a card advertising an online survey with questions about her “satisfaction” about being pulled over.
“Be honest,” Brown said. “If you think I was a jerk, then you tell them I was a jerk. If you thought I was being nice, tell them I was nice.”
Under a directive from Chief Ken Burton, Columbia police officers have been handing out the survey cards since last April. According to Burton, the surveys will be used indefinitely as a way of providing police with feedback on the quality of their service. In other words, it’s a “customer satisfaction” survey.
So far, results show an overall satisfaction rate of 87 percent. Ninety-two percent of respondents said the officer was “helpful and polite,” and 91 percent said the officer answered their questions and kept them informed. Seventy-eight percent were satisfied with police response time.
Right now, 183 people have responded to the survey. That’s a small number when compared with the 90,000 interactions police say they have with citizens each year.
Mary Ratliff, president of the NAACP Columbia branch, said in her recent interactions with police, not only were the officers rude, but she was not given a survey card.
“If you’re handing out cards, you can give the cards to whomever you want to give them to,” she said. “And you can not give them to whomever you don’t want to give them to.”
Burton said a lack of responses is a major flaw in the survey program so far.
“I’m a little concerned that we’re not getting enough of the cards out there,” he said. “You always have a low response, but it does require somebody to make an extra effort (to take the survey), so it’s not really surprising either.”
Ratliff said she was running late one day to a Sunday school class when she was speeding. When an officer stopped her and issued her a ticket, she said he took as long as he possibly could, keeping her waiting for at least 10 minutes.
“The survey comes back and indicates, ‘oh, everybody is happy with everything,’” she said. “That is not the case.”
The survey asks how a person has interacted with police and whether they were arrested, a victim or a witness. So far, more than half of the respondents have answered “other.”
Though you’d think that those arrested would not be happy with police, a conversation with a man recently arrested on domestic assault charges shows otherwise.
Byron Brown is in the Boone County Jail and awaiting his trial. Though he said he was falsely arrested and denies the charge of attacking his girlfriend, he had positive things to say about the officers who arrested him, and said he had no complaints.
“They did their job,” he said.
Burton said he wants every citizen to be treated as a customer because as taxpayers, they are paying for the police department’s services. But instituting this new philosophy of customer satisfaction is slow going, he said.
“You make changes to attitudes over a period of time, and you tell employees that it is important,” he said. “We will be responsive to people who pay the bills.”
See the survey results:
Document source: Columbia Police Department