City and state policymakers have a vested interest in increasing public trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. A poll conducted by The Press, whose polling tracks confidence in both city and county law enforcement, saw the Stark County Sheriff’s Office score top marks -- while their urban counterparts reached record lows.

Previous polling conducted by The Press found that the public’s level of confidence in the Stark County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 was steady at 54%, which was in keeping with the historical norm. In the latest poll, completed on Monday, Sept. 9, 67% of residents of Stark County said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Stark County Sheriff’s Office to keep the county heading in the right direction.

The approval rating for Corey Lee, Stark County Sheriff, surpassed 63% among voting-aged adults polled, with 74.5% saying that they “held the highest trust” or “quite a lot of trust” in the Sheriff’s Office to be transparent and do the right thing.

“I’m honored that we scored as well as we did. I think there’s something to be said about getting out in the community and hearing from the people about their needs and concerns,” Lee said. “We have listened, developed plans and are adhering to them.”

By comparison, the Dickinson Police Department scored well in areas of public perception of proficiency, but significantly lower in categories pertaining to transparency and public trust in the most recent poll.

Previous data collected by The Press found that the public’s level of confidence in the Dickinson Police Department in 2017 was steady at 51%, which was in keeping with the historical norm. The latest polling data shows that 34.5% of residents said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police department to keep the city heading in the right direction — a reduction of 16.5% in less than two years.

The approval rating for the Dickinson Police Department fell below 37% among adults polled, with 59% saying that they “had no confidence” or “very little trust” in the police department to be transparent or to do the right thing.

In fairness to the department, many respondents of the poll stated that they were pleased with the low level of crime in the city and appreciative of the efforts of the officers who protect and serve the city. The primary complaints levied against the department centered on the perceived shortcomings in areas of “transparency” and “community involvement.”

Transparency issues were among the most troubling for residents, aged 65 and older, who stated that they felt that many of the events occurring in Dickinson are not being reported to the public by law enforcement. According to the poll, few respondents had active social media accounts and many felt that there was a lack of information coming from the police through other means such as town halls and in the newspaper.

Despite the polling data, Stark County residents scored high in their faith in law enforcement comparative to national polling data which suggests that public confidence in the police has steadily declined since the late 90s — reaching historic lows in 2014 and 2015.

The survey of 200+ area residents was conducted on September 9-10, 2019 by The Press. The margin of sampling error is +/- 6 percentage points with a 90% level of confidence. The poll was conducted via telephone and area canvasing. The margin of sampling error describes how close we can reasonably expect a survey result to fall relative to the true population value.