Racial attitudes survey focus on crime, punishment finds gap in perspectives
While the gap is narrowing in many areas, results of the Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County survey, which this year focused on crime and punishment, revealed great disparities in the perceptions of life in our community, Chancellor Joel E. Anderson said at the 10th Annual Conference on March 28.
“It is not helpful to deny it and it is not helpful to fail to recognize it,” Anderson said.
Among the most profound inequities highlighted in the survey report were in perspectives of trust and fairness in interactions with police and the judicial system, with about 30 percentage points separating the number of whites and blacks who responded to the survey saying they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in the judicial system and police. The opinions of Hispanics fell somewhere in between at just over 50 percent, meaning they were significantly more likely to have trust in the police and judicial system than blacks, but significantly less likely to trust than whites.
Panelist Olly Neal, a retired appellate court judge, said the difference in perception grows out of the experiences that people have, and while things have improved since the era of segregation — it is not time to slow down.
“We’ve got to work more aggressively,” Neal said, “to figure out how to be conscience of race to the extent we make certain we don’t let the race be a factor in how we investigate, arrest, charge, try and serve the young people who appear before us.”
Other members of the panel included Charles Chastain, UALR professor emeritus of criminal justice, Leta Anthony, director of Lewis-Burnett Employment Finders Inc., Eric Higgins, assistant chief of the Little Rock Police Department, and Robert Tellez, an attorney with Monterrey & Tellez Law Firm PLLC who works at length with members of the Hispanic community.
In the 10 years since the Institute on Race and Ethnicity was founded, it has focused racial attitudes research on topics such as health and health care, media, education, values, social conflict and trust, perspectives on community, crime and public safety, local government, economic wealth, housing and financial well-being and personal perceptions about race.
“Ten years may sound like a lot, but for the issues we’re addressing, I would say we are just now to the point where we have begun to have a real baseline for looking at ourselves and our movement,” Anderson said.
Data for each of the institute’s surveys is now available in a researchable format on a newly launched website at ualr.edu/race-ethnicity, which went live following the conference.