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Communication Accommodation: Law Enforcement and the Public

  • Author(s): Giles, Howard
  • Fortman, Jennifer
  • Dailey, René
  • Barker, Valerie
  • Hajek, Christopher
  • Anderson, Michelle Chernikoff
  • Rule, Nicholas O.
  • et al.
Abstract

While there is a burgeoning literature on diverse aspects of intergroup communication and some attention to media depictions of police officers and policing, very little research addresses communicative dimensions of police-civilian encounters. This is important to the extent that while it has been estimated that the vast amount of police training is devoted to physical compliance issues, 98% of actual law enforcement practice revolves around communicating with the public and its safety needs. Thus, the communication between police officers and civilians warrants examination. In this chapter, we overview the separate literatures on attitudes toward the police and communication accommodation theory. The findings of three studies are presented exploring the role of accommodation, alongside socio-demographic and other variables, in predicting attitudes toward police. The three studies encompass three different populations: English-speaking adults, Spanish-speaking adults, and university students. Analyses reveal similar results across the samples. In general, accommodation by officers predicts civilians’ rating of officer performance as well as satisfaction when interacting with the police. These findings suggest that more attention should be directed at developing communication skills in general and accommodative ones in particular.

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