Brennan David reports about the Columbia police department’s new customer surveys in today’s Columbia Tribune:
“I think the chief recognizes that most of the department supplies excellent customer service,” said police spokeswoman Officer Jessie Haden. “If someone has a bad experience, they are vocal about that. The people that are happy with service can be the silent majority. This is another way to get feedback.”
The charitable interpretation here is that the police department is delusional about precisely how to measure customer satisfaction and fail to recognize that citizen interactions with police often happen in the context of overwhelming displays of force. It is not disputed over the last several years there have been numerous incidents of police brutality and misconduct in Columbia that have only been publicized through a serious of fortuitous accidents and the emergence of modern video recording technology that can be deployed through cellphones. Often members of poor and politically weak groups, particularly black people, are the victims of police brutality and misconduct, and find their complaints stymied by police bureaucracy and the tendency of law enforcement to protect its own.
When citizens are the victims of substantial and forceful rights violations they are left with the belief that the system does not exist to protect them and that they are best served by dropping out and not participating. It is hard to convince people that after their doors have been kicked in by SWAT teams dressed in paramilitary gear for non-violent misdemeanor offenses that their complaints of rights violations will be met by a receptive officer at the desk or even by the Internal Affairs department. Moreover there is evidence that rights violations are systemic and underreported by the Columbia Police department. Check out this particularly egregious case where the Columbia police department is on video outright lying to an attorney waiting in their lobby to speak to his client; officers told his client, who was in the holding cell, that her attorney had gone home, and told the attorney that his client had not asked to see him yet.
So no. Officer Haden is wrong in saying that there is a “silent majority” that is happy with their “customer service”. People are silent because they have been silenced and fear reprisal, not because they are happy with their law enforcement.
Welcome to Soviet America.
Addendum: here is the link to the CPD’s customer survey, which can be presumably filled anonymously.