This study was carried out by 24 University of Hawai’i at Hilo criminology students. The class ranged from traditional college aged (18-22) to non-traditional aged; from sophomores to senior standing; and of numerous races and ethnicity, including several Native Hawaiian individuals. The students were primarily Sociology majors (41.6%) and Administration of Justice majors (41.6%), however there were also Psychology, Political Science, and Undeclared majors as well.
In short, this group of student researchers was incredibly diverse in their lived experiences, demographic traits, and the knowledge they brought with them to the project.
Students were polled after completion of the Community Perspectives on Policing study to measure the impact of the project on their knowledge and understanding of policing, the criminal justice system, and social science techniques. Polling found:
Almost half of students reported that they perceptions of policing changed significantly after working on the study; and
Over three-quarters reported significant changes to their perceptions of the criminal justice system after working on this project.
One student explained, “I was able to collaborate with different people from the community and that made me learn about different perspectives of criminal justice.”
Another student mentioned that study findings defied their original hypothesis of what the class would find. They said, “It was interesting to see how community perceptions kind of differed from what I would expect given broader social movements. It really highlighted the necessity of quantitative data.” A classmate confirmed this sentiment, noting the role of media in shaping our perceptions, saying, “The way that the media has affected people's perception of police officers [is noticeable].”
In terms of Community Perspectives on Policing as an avenue for learning hands-on social science techniques, 88% of students felt they better understood how to conduct social science experiments after participating in the project. This knowledge included, “how to prepare and conduct a survey,” as well as “that doing outreach isn't too hard once you break the fear of wanting to use a little bit of someone’s time.”
Overall, Community Perspectives on Policing was a successful learning experience. 9 out of 10 students reported that the project was worthwhile.