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Can an online survey help San Diego police win public trust?

The San Diego Police Department seal is seen on an officer's uniform in this undated photo.
A San Diego police vehicle is parked on the side of a street downtown in this undated photo.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday announced a new online survey aimed at measuring perceptions of public safety and trust in police.

The city signed a $240,000 contract with Israeli tech firm Zencity to run the survey. Zencity crafts similar surveys for local governments and law enforcement agencies, and purchases targeted ads on websites and apps to reach a sampling of city residents that reflects the city's demographics.

The survey is anonymous, and the city aims to obtain roughly 1,000 responses each month. Police Chief David Nisleit said in a press conference that the police would share the data in a public dashboard within the next roughly two months.


"This is a tool — it's a great tool for us to engage our communities to really see how they feel about this department and what is happening in their neighborhoods," Nisleit said. "It's going to allow us to make improvements based on that feedback."

Can an online survey help San Diego police win public trust?

The city shared four examples of questions in the survey, including rating from 0 to 10 how safe a person feels in their neighborhood, or how much they agree that police treat their neighbors with respect.

Khalid Alexander, president of the nonprofit advocacy organization Pillars of the Community, said he did not think the survey would result in any meaningful change and that the questions were superficial.

"The idea that these conversations are happening without the people who have been demanding change is a clear example that this is only an attempt to change the perception and not actually change the institution," Alexander said. "When Chief Nisleit is willing to come out and say racial profiling exists, then we can maybe have a conversation."

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