UW-Whitewater: New center provides consulting services to local governments

Contact: Susan Johnson

(262) 472-4766

[email protected]

WHITEWATER ­ The new University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Center for Political Science and Public Policy Research is already at work helping the cities of Janesville and Whitewater find ways to better serve their citizens.

The center is helping the Janesville Police Department with a survey of how city residents perceive the department. The department wants to learn more about what residents want from their police force.

Whitewater has asked the center to assist in evaluating the city’s comprehensive plan.

Organized this spring, the center is led by Professor Susan Johnson, chair of the university’s Political Science Department, and Jolly Emrey, an assistant professor of political science.

“Essentially, the Center for Political Science and Public Policy Research provides consulting services for local governments that are working to use public opinion surveys to help them meet their goals and better serve their citizens,” Johnson said.

“I think the center will help UW-Whitewater make better connections with the communities in terms of what we do and what we can provide,” Emrey added. “There are many people on this campus with a lot of expertise that can be used to help local governments work more effectively.”

Johnson said the center was developed to further the university’s goal of offering its expertise to help Wisconsin communities.

The university’s strategic plan calls on the school to “create and cultivate meaningful relationships with members of the extended campus community,” and, Johnson said, the Janesville Police Department collaboration is a good example of that partnership.

“We have the people with the skills necessary to conduct this kind of evaluation and we want to make them available to communities that can make use of their expertise,” Johnson said.

The Janesville Police Department recently contacted 3,000 residents, chosen at random, using a survey that the UW-Whitewater center helped the department prepare. The center will now analyze the survey results and work with the police department to determine opportunities to better serve our community, according to Police Chief Dave Moore.

Johnson and Emrey will oversee the Janesville survey. The cost, estimated at between $5,000 and $6,000, comes from the Janesville Police Department budget.

The survey asked questions dealing with the perceptions of Janesville residents about how safe they feel throughout the city, how well they believe police officers perform various tasks and about the relative importance residents assign to police programs. Results will be sorted by patrol areas so that individual officers can gain a better feeling about what the people they serve deem important.

Emrey said students will be involved in various aspects of the center’s projects. UW-Whitewater already has a national reputation for excellence in undergraduate research.

“This is a great opportunity for the students to learn research methods and to use them to benefit their communities,” Emrey said. “That’s what political science is all about.”