Research News

Infographic: Do Stop-and-Frisk Policies Affect Trust in Police?

IPR political scientist Wesley G. Skogan examines Chicagoans' police encounters and trust in police


police trust

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Wesley G. Skogan

For police departments across the country, “stop and frisk”—an investigative procedure where an officer stops and questions an individual and then searches him or her—has become the strategy of choice for deterring crime. In an IPR working paper, political scientist and policing expert Wesley G. Skogan examines the consequences of such a policy in Chicago, focusing on how police encounters affect public trust in police. His major finding? “Stop and frisk” policies can serve to lower the public’s trust in the police.

For his study, Skogan conducted a representative in-person survey of 1,450 Chicagoans in 2015, nearly 30 percent of whom reported being stopped by police in the previous 12 months.

He uncovered that Chicagoans’ encounters with police, or lack thereof, varied widely across demographic groups, and that police encounters shaped public trust in police:

  • The frequency of police encounters varied widely across demographic groups: Only 11 percent of older, white females came into contact with police, but 68 percent of young African-American males reported a police encounter. 
  • Being stopped and frisked was “extremely common”: 75 percent of those who encountered police were stopped and frisked, compared with just 25 percent who were stopped for a violation.
  • Racial minorities were more likely to report an abrasive or forceful encounter with police: Only 17 percent of white respondents experienced police use of force, compared with more than 30 percent for other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Police encounters, or lack thereof, affected trust in police: Across all racial and ethnic groups, those who had no police contact were more likely to trust police.
  • “Stop and frisks” reduced trust in police at roughly the same level as other police stops, though these levels varied widely by race/ethnicity: Only 29 percent of black respondents who were stopped and frisked reported trust in police, compared with 76 percent of white respondents.

Recently, questions about the success of the Chicago Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy have been raised by analyses, including those by the mayor’s 2015 Police Accountability Task Force on which Skogan served. Yet the future of the policy “remains to be seen,” according to Skogan.

Wesley G. Skogan is professor of political science and an IPR fellow. The working paper, “Stop-and-Frisk and Trust in Police in Chicago (WP-16-08)” can be found here.