Two weeks after Columbia police turned to text messaging to understand how citizens feel about the city’s cops, Police Chief Skip Holbrook says the program is looking like a success.
“The first day we rolled it out, I was out and about observing,” Holbrook said. “Some of the feedback I got was extremely positive.”
In the first week of the program, 29 people texted in survey responses. Holbrook said respondents are asked to rate their experiences from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). So far, the department ranks above a 4 in every category.
Respondents start the survey by texting “CPD” to 803-388-8037. They’ll be asked to text the following demographic info:
- What is your gender? Respond “M” for male and “F” for female
- Are you a resident of the city of Columbia? Respond “Y” for yes and “N” for no
- What is your age?
- Have you had previous contact with the police department in the last year? Respond “Y” for yes and “N” for no
After that, the survey asks respondents to address the following, each on a scale of 1 to 5:
- How would you rate the officer’s willingness and ability to answer your questions?
- Please rate the officer’s fairness in problem-solving.
- How would you rate the officer’s professional appearance?
- Taking the whole experience into account, how satisfied are you with the way you were treated by the officer during your encounter?
- Please rate your overall satisfaction with the Columbia Police Department.
The police hope this new tool will encourage more feedback from young Columbia residents, especially, Holbrook said.
“They’re probably less apt to pick up the phone and call the chief’s office, but they’re probably very comfortable taking two minutes to go to their phone and answer a couple questions (by text),” he said.
It’s also a chance to connect with the city’s Hispanic population, the chief said. The department recently printed survey cards in Spanish.
Officials will examine the survey results monthly and will look for specific trends in each patrol area, Holbrook said. When trends stand out, officers’ training will reflect what citizens in their patrol areas are saying.
But Holbrook said it’s important to realize the surveys don’t replace other ways that citizens can reach the police – anyone who wants to call or send a letter is still welcome to do so.
“This is just another level of citizens being able to engage with their police department and let us know how we’re serving them,” he said.