UNF Poll On Police: Most Say JSO Doing Good Job; Results Differ By Neighborhood, Race

Feb 3, 2017

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams
Credit WJCT News

A University of North Florida poll released Friday shows Jacksonville residents overall approve of the job the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is doing.

Lead UNF researcher Mike Binder said he had no idea how Jacksonville residents felt about the police until he surveyed them.


“Even though you wouldn’t necessarily think it, folks feel safe in their neighborhood,” Binder said. “Folks are supportive of JSO and I think that’s the picture that you can pull from this.”

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they approve of the way the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is handling its job and 88 percent said they feel safe in their own neighborhood.

Pollsters called random cell phone and landlines all over the city. About 300 adults were surveyed from each of JSO’s six patrol zones, and responses were weighted to reflect census demographic data including race, age and gender. The survey took people about 10 minutes to complete and has a 2.3 percent margin of error.

Binder said there’s widespread support for JSO across the city and racial groups.

“There are a couple of areas where there are some small differences,” he said.

Southside residents surveyed said they feel safer than residents in the urban core and northwest of downtown. And while 71 percent of white respondents said JSO does a good job investigating officer-involved shootings, just 44 percent of black respondents agreed.

When asked whether officers are courteous and competent, 61 percent of white respondents strongly agreed, compared to 35 percent of black respondents.

Progressive Coalition activist Wells Todd said he’s not surprised about that gap. He’s been calling for a community-review board to examine police-involved shootings.

Todd said in future polls, he’d like to know how people feel about police use of force, and how much experience respondents actually have with police.

Binder said the 20 percent of respondents who don’t think JSO is doing a good job is still a big number, since about 700,000 adults live in the city.

“It’s certainly worth paying attention to,” Binder said. “It’s not unanimous support and there are some differences and I think that’s the thing to keep in mind. But this isn’t a case where large swafts of the city have great disdain for JSO.”

Regardless of their approval, 93 of all respondents said they support officers wearing body cameras and the vast majority said JSO needs more funding.

For more on the public-perception poll about Jacksonville police, tune in to First Coast Connect Monday at 9 a.m.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.