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Podcast: Effects of Carceral Contact on Civic Participation with Brandon Davis, University of Kansas

Posted on August 28, 2020


Brandon Davis

Brandon Davis

Brandon Davis
Assistant Professor of Law and Society
University of Kansas
Bio | LinkedIn | Twitter


Feeling politics. Brandon Davis, Assistant Professor of Law and Society for the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration, joined the podcast to discuss a recent paper he published titled, Feeling Politics: Carceral Contact, Well-Being, and Participation. His paper is about the impact that contact with police and the criminal justice system have on civic participation. Brandon discussed what his research found and how local governments can address this issue.

Host: Kirsten Wyatt

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Learn More

Feeling Politics: Carceral Contact, Well‐Being, and Participation

Testing Mechanisms: Carceral Contact and Political Participation

Gendered Pathways into the Carceral State?

Brandon Davis School of Public Affairs and Administration


Episode Transcript

Kirsten Wyatt

Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is GovLove, a podcast about local government. GovLove is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Kirsten Wyatt, the ELGL co-founder and executive director and today I’m joined by Brandon Davis, a professor at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper titled Feeling Politics: Carceral Contact, Well-Being, and Participation. Brandon, welcome to GovLove.

Brandon Davis

Well, thank you for having me.

Kirsten Wyatt

Today, we’re talking about Brandon’s research and his findings about how a person’s contact with law enforcement affects their civic participation, as well as the likelihood of their family and friends engaging with government. But first we’ll get started with a lightning round. So what is your favorite font?

Brandon Davis

Times New Roman 12.

Kirsten Wyatt

Wow! That’s kind of a, kind of an old school pick. [Laughter] Any particular reasons, it’s just kind of what you’re used to or readability or ….

Brandon Davis

I’m a huge creature of habit. So once I get used to doing something a certain way, I tend to keep using that way. So when I was in college, a lot of teachers said only Times Roman or Courier New. But Courier New kind of fell out of favor, so

Kirsten Wyatt

And do you have the same requirement for your students that you teach?

Brandon Davis

No, I just, I just tell them don’t try to fuzz it. [Laughter] So like, don’t make it don’t make the font really because sometimes they’ll make the font really small. They go over the page limit or they make crazy spaces in the paper if they’re trying to get to a page limit, so I just tell them don’t fudge it. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

All right, what is your most controversial non-political opinion?

Brandon Davis

Most controversial non political opinion. Umm, I don’t know. No, no I’m not. I don’t I’m not a big fan of dessert.

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh well, okay.

Brandon Davis

I don’t think, I don’t think dessert is that big of a deal.

Kirsten Wyatt

Is it that you don’t like sweet and you prefer savory or just like across the board you just don’t need an extra meal after you’re done?

Brandon Davis

I’m just not big on dessert. I mean like I just don’t I’m not big on cake or muffins or cookies or any of that stuff. So I’m just I’m just not a big fan of desserts. I don’t I don’t see what the big deal is about dessert.

Kirsten Wyatt

[Laughter] So you don’t watch like the baking shows or anything like that.

Brandon Davis

Oh, no, no, I used to watch cooking shows, but I don’t but I’ve never done baking shows and I I can’t understand how a place can operate that just sells dessert. [Laughter} Like, how do they have enough revenue to keep the lights on.

Kirsten Wyatt

[Laughter] Well, I will say your Twitter feed is a delight. There’s a lot of food pictures on your Twitter feed.

Brandon Davis

Yes, yes.

Kirsten Wyatt

Tell me more about what you like, what you like to cook?

Brandon Davis

I’m a, I cooked my way through high school and college. And so for the most of that time I worked on the grill. And so I’m real big on cooking like all kinds of different meats, or like big, big pieces of meats. So I think my favorite thing, absolute favorite thing to cook is like lamb. I’m a huge fan of lamb.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay. And what’s your preferred method?

Brandon Davis

Oh, I like a grilled rack of lamb. I think that’s the like my absolute favorite.

Kirsten Wyatt

But like gas grill, charcoal, smoke.

Brandon Davis

Oh yeah. I use charcoal. I smoke stuff. I smoked something yesterday, but I use charcoal and wood chunks.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay. And so when you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Brandon Davis

Honestly, I think I wanted to be, when I was 10 years old. This is this is like way dated now. I want it to be, I wanted to deliver babies like, like a Bill Cosby. [Laughter] Which is like no one is ever going to say they want to be like, they want to be like Bill Cosby anymore. But when I was a little kid they go that’s like always to watch The Cosby Show and I wanted to like deliver babies like Bill Cosby.

Kirsten Wyatt

Wilma had that awesome house and he had his office right downstairs. Yeah.

Brandon Davis

Yeah, he hardly ever worked.

Kirsten Wyatt

I know. Exactly. [Laughter] Well, all right, so let’s shift gears and talk about what you are actually doing right now, which is not being an obstetrician. So tell us more about your professional background and what you’re currently working on.

Brandon Davis

Okay. So I have kind of a, I guess, eclectic, academic background because my undergrad was in psychology. And from there, I went and got a master’s in social work. And I worked as a social worker for a while with therapy for foster kids. And from there I went and got my PhD in Political Science and another Master’s in Gender and Race Studies. And so my career path has not been direct at all. I like to say that because I think a lot of people feel like, you know, if they don’t, if their degrees don’t match, then they’re, they don’t have as much of an opportunity. But I think it kind of adds something to and I’m, you know, biased of course, but I think it kind of adds something to your repertoire when you’ve had a diversity of different backgrounds. And you know, nobody really knows what they want to do with their life. Well, most kids don’t know they want to do with their life when they’re in undergrad anyway. So, yeah, so I think my career path has been, you know, it’s been it’s been fun. Then from when I got, when I left Alabama, University of Alabama, I got a postdoc at a pre doc and a postdoc at Brown. So I was at Brown for three years. And then when I left Brown, and I came here to the University of Kansas to the School of Public Affairs and Administration, and right now I’m an Assistant Professor of Law and Society. So I teach classes based on the premise that law is a social, social construct. And I’ve been here, this would be my second year, start my second at fall.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay. And what prompted you to go back to school for your PhD while you were working as a social worker?

Brandon Davis

Well, what happened was is I got laid off. And so this is my, this is my second time getting laid off. So I got when I first got school, I got a job as a social worker from undergrad. And I got laid off because the company lost a contract with the state. So I went back to cooking. And then I cooked and worked in this hotel for about five years, and I actually had moved up. I was like in management, I was managing a couple of food outlets, and the recession hit, and I got laid off again. And so I was like, I gotta get a job that’s more insulated from being laid off from a recession and service industry is just not that job. And so I went back to school to get my MSW and I got another job as a social worker. The thing with that was that I was working in therapeutic Foster Care. But my concentration in my social work program was policy administration and planning. And I was actually on the State Board of social workers. I was President of the State Board of Social Workers for three years. And so that pushed me over into doing social policy and public policy. And so I applied for the PhD. program at Alabama in political science.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so what is the best college town? Is it Tuscaloosa or Lawrence or Providence?

Brandon Davis

Oh, I wouldn’t. I would say ….. or College Town. That’s gonna depend because if you’re a football person, then Alabama is going to be a better town. If you’re a basketball person, people here in Lawrence are just as fanatic about KU basketball as people in Alabama are about UA football. So but I do think Lawrence has more amenities. Lawrence has more amenities than Tuscaloosa. I can say that.

Kirsten Wyatt

So let’s talk about your recent paper, your recent research. What led you to your research question and your feeling politics paper?

Brandon Davis

Yeah. There’s a there’s been, there’s been a lot of research recently. And by recently, I mean over the past, you know, maybe like 10 years that political scientists have done on the effects of contact with the criminal justice system and how it affects people’s likelihood of participating in politics. And so there’s a lot of research on that that is happening. So there’s plenty of papers that are saying, okay, contact with the police, less participation, more people on probation and parole, less participation. There’s a lot of papers saying that it’s happening. There are a lot of theories behind why it’s happening. But from my perspective, no one had tested any of these mechanisms as to being the linchpin, that is a that it’s like a causal linchpin. And so I was reading the DOJ report on Ferguson in Baltimore. And Baltimore really stuck out to me because Baltimore Police Department, the DOJ reports actually say that the DOJ, that the Baltimore Police Department created two Baltimore’s. One for poor minorities and one for the affluent. And one of the things the Baltimore Police Department used to do was, they would strip search men, women and under age people on public streets, in full view of people, pedestrians and passerbyers, and for very minor infractions like having a busted taillight. And I was just imagining what it would be like to live in a city, whereas I didn’t know if I day to day if I will be stripped naked on the street by the police officers, and what kind of, how would that affect my well being? How would that affect how, you know, I felt about myself, you know, how, obviously how I feel about the police officers in the city that’s allowing this to happen to me. But this has to have I think, maybe from my social work background, this has to have psychological reverberations. And I was thinking, well, maybe that is a mechanism. Yeah. So that is a mechanism through which we’re seeing reduced participation. So that’s when I went on to try to find some data so I could test that.

Kirsten Wyatt

And our listeners work in local government. And so if they don’t have the chance to read your full paper, what are some of the main takeaways that you want them to know or some of the findings that you presented in the, in the paper?

Brandon Davis

Well, what I find is affirmative measures of well being, happiness, calmness, things like that are positive, positively associated with participating in the political process. Now, namely, people are gonna talk about voting, but I’m also talking about having interest in local government. I’m talking about you know, going to community meetings, participating in civic organizations, like I grew up in South Alabama is really Catholic down there. So like, you know, the Knights of Columbus, you know, these types of civic organizations and things like that. It It has an effect on the likelihood of participating on things and the more adverse feelings of well being are correlated with less likely to participate and more depression, anxiety, things like that. I think the most important takeaway for for local government is the example of Ferguson. And what I mean by the example of Ferguson is the DOJ report on Ferguson. Ferguson, was 70% black and had been and has been 70% black for almost 20 years now. But 50 of the 54 police officers at the time of the murder of Michael Brown, and then only one city council person was black, the entire municipal court system was white. And they found a documented cases of where the city was actively pursuing African Americans for tickets such that they can prop up the city’s coffers. And so what this shows is that a predacious criminal justice system, can can actually produce de facto and de jure desegregate, not segregation, but de jure … like a voter disenfranchisement through, you know, the use of 50 police officers, you know, and it can actually affect the voting participation so much such that the super majority 70%, which are African American, are eliminated from the political process, even voting and running from office. So essentially 30% of the population has control over 70%, specifically because they had control of the of the criminal justice system.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and I think, I think if I remember correctly, it was also at the staff level too I mean, not just in the police department, but city administrator on down and again, if you think about all of the different ways that government, especially local government touches the lives of the people who live in the community, that concept of representation also wasn’t in play.

Brandon Davis

Yeah, yes. Yeah, it was it was they were I mean, it was almost like a, you know, like a crime novel like everybody was in on it. Everybody in government was in on it. They would have meetings talking about driving revenue. Interesting enough, the city attorney was also the prosecuting attorney. So the city attorney, who was in the meetings about budgeting, would then go to the municipal courthouse and assess fines and fees. And that courthouse was only open during certain times. They were very inconvenient. And if you weren’t able to be seen at that short window at these awkward days and times, there would be an arrest warrant sent out for you. So you had to owe even more money. So they created like a debtors prison. And it was just it was it was an amazing in a bad sense the use of use of city government to exploit some of the their population, make the majority of their population actually.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and your research went, it went deep enough as well to show that this it’s not just an effect on like presidential year politics. I mean, you were looking at, you know, midterm election cycles you were looking at, you know, the ways that people engaged and got involved with politics. Anything, you know, I know, we’ve talked a little bit about how it’s more than just voting. But anything else kind of on that that kind of more nuanced or detailed level about how it affects participation?

Brandon Davis

Oh, yeah. I mean, I think for one that I think we have to, when we think about participation, we have to look past, we have to look at voting but also look past voting, because voting is like the holy grail of democratic participation, but also things like first you got to register, right? So if it affects registration, then no, you’re not gonna be able to vote. If it affects interest in politics, you know, you may not keep up with it enough to vote. People are like, oh, we got to vote today? You know, I got to work or I’m doing something else or something like that. And also, I think it’s important to note that I texted direct contact. So if I personally had contact with the criminal justice system, and also if someone in my family had contact, some of my family had been incarcerated per se, what would happen to my likelihood of participating? And what I found was that, that network contact was more significant than personal contact, right. So like, like so, but there were two different kinds of contact. So like being stopped or detained is a lot different than being incarcerated. But having a family member incarcerated, because of the over policing and stopping and detaining, or something like that caused or had a stronger effect on the on the likelihood of voting, a stronger negative effect or a likelihood of voting than did a personal contact. And we know that being incarcerated has a lot of other ramifications that come from it, economically, psychologically, all kinds of things come from having a family member incarcerated.

Kirsten Wyatt

So this concept of cultural transmission, and then proximity, how far out does that carceral contact affect the friends and family? Because it probably makes sense just intuitively that like, yes, if you’ve been incarcerated, your view of government or institutions, you know, would be affected. But this kind of ripple effect that you talked about was also fascinating.

Brandon Davis

Yeah, I think I think a good example of that is the, okay, so first, there’s a higher prevalence of, of people who have been had contact with the criminal justice system within communities of color. And so what that means is there’s a stronger likelihood that people in those communities are going to go to jail. And so a good example of that is, in Illinois, in Illinois, in Cook County, which is which is where Chicago is, 60% of Illinois prisoners are from Cook County. So that means you have a high concentration of people who have had adverse or contact incarceration or whatever in Cook County. And so they are going to change the environment. They’re going to change the narrative of that, of those communities, because they’re, because they’re not going anywhere in Cook County, they’re going into specific zip codes in Cook County. The same thing with Michigan. So in Michigan, the majority of inmates returned to Wayne County, which is where Detroit is, and 12% of census tracks in Wayne County, received 50% of the parolees. 2% of the census tracts in Wayne County received 25% of the parolees. And so you’re talking about areas with high concentrations of individuals who have had contact up to the point of incarceration. And that’s gonna, that’s going to, and these people have family members, cousins, uncles who they who they see or knew they were incarcerated, they see them dealing with their parole and probation officer, they see them going in and out because they can’t pay the parole fees, or the probation fees, all these types of things. And so what happens is, they see that, they can they see it, and it affects their, their socialization within their community, or they are living with someone who is going through that and affects their socialization within the community.

Kirsten Wyatt

So this is, this is a big question, but like, what’s the solution? Or what, what if someone is listening to this, and they’re thinking to themselves, okay, how do I make, how do I make it better in my community? What’s a starting solution that, that you think could work or that research has shown might work?

Brandon Davis

Well, I think, a) you have to stop putting so many people in jail for nonviolent offenses. That’s key. You want to stop feeding the beast. Second, you have to have outreach to these individuals who have come out of, who have come out of jail or prison. There has to be some type of outreach to those individuals to help get them back into the economy. The majority are, I think, maybe 40 or 50% of them and who have been released from prison are still unemployed up to a year after their release. And so you have to have programs to get these individuals into the economy so they don’t end up going back to prison. I think, you know, the low level offenses, cut that jailing out of low level offenses, and also providing some type of economic resources. But this is also in conjunction with, right, so it’s also in conjunction with poverty. So these areas that are highly policed tend to be areas that have high poverty rates. So, going back to my Chicago and Detroit examples, the black poverty rate in Cook and Wayne County is like 26% for Cook County, and probably 35, it is 34% for Wayne County. Right? It’s comparable to the whites in those in those same counties. So in Cook County, where Chicago is, it’s 26% poverty rate for blacks, 7% for whites. In Wayne County where Detroit is, it’s 34% for blacks 14% for whites. And so it’s not just a criminal justice issue. It’s also a poverty issue. Because we know that poverty is linked to more instances of crime. You know, poverty is like because of you know, desperation, things like that, just it’s just less opportunity. And so I think that’s also something to look into. And I think that’s why a lot of the organizations now are talking about reallocating funds from criminal justice system to, back to social services.

Kirsten Wyatt

Right. Well, and I would think that if you are kind of, put making a hierarchy of or a listing of services and resources to direct to people when they, when they leave prison or the criminal justice system, number one probably isn’t like community engagement, it’s probably further down that list. But the other takeaway from your paper was about that concept of quality of interactions and you know, when people are engaging, the quality of their interaction at any step in the process is really going to be that driver and and i think that that is something that is you know, something our listeners could be reflecting on in in you know, reevaluating what does it look like in all of these different steps, not, let me elevate community engagement to the number one, you know, parole service that we’re going to offer.

Brandon Davis

MmHmm. I think, I think quality of those interactions is important because you have to remember police are public servants. So and so they are there to provide a service for everyone. But if they treat people differently, those quality of interactions are going to affect how people view themselves and how they view the government. And so, I think, an important aspect of that, because so I saw there was a video recently, that I saw on social media that was, a police officer stopped in this neighborhood, it is a nice neighborhood, and wanted to question this man about what he was doing in his own yard. And the guy was like, I’m just walking in my yard. He was like, well do you live here? And he’s like, well, why are you asking me, do I live here? I’m just in my yard. He’s like, do you have any ID? Can you prove to me you live here? Like that’s a low quality interaction? That’s an absolutely low quality interaction. That person is going to come from that. Maybe, maybe not, but the probability that person is going to come from that thinking differently about the police department, thinking differently about the individual’s motivations, right. There’s going to be always be doubt as to why he would ask me and not my neighbor who was out in their yard. And so those are low quality interactions. I think it will be what we don’t pay attention. What we do pay attention to are the major incidences like, like George Floyd and things like that. What we don’t pay attention to, is the daily predation, the humiliations that people have to suffer through on a daily basis, those low quality humiliating interactions that are just a constant reminder that you are not, you are not a A class citizen. You are second, you are a secondary citizen. There was, there’s a lot of information, which it was not legal to do now, but when it when they did do the stop and frisk, there was information that came out of some of the some of the research on that, on that, that they did a whole bunch of stops and frisks of first talking like, you know, millions and millions and millions of stop and frisk. But they disproportionately stopped young boys of color, even in areas like Manhattan, which where they had less young people of color. They, they also, when they usually stopped people, they were more likely to pull it up, to varnish a weapon, to threaten uses of force. Some individuals reported being stopped multiple times a day, you know, just trying to go to work or go to school and come back. And so those types of daily interactions, those low quality interactions are very important, I think, to study because those are the things that everyday citizens, average citizens go through every day.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and as an organization, ELGL has started talking more and doing information sharing around this concept of defunding police and, and what that means and what that looks like. You know, knowing that that doesn’t mean eliminating police but it means paying attention to those interactions or the other types of services that are helpful. Anything from your research, you know, that knows that currently we have some criminal justice policies that send different messages to black and white citizens and what maybe a low hanging fruit kind of defunding type action could be for our listeners?

Brandon Davis

Well, I think there is research that shows outreach, to outreach and certain types of outreach organizations in these communities are able to increase participation, political participation. So that’s one thing. I think, or I would say, the next thing is reducing, reducing probabilities of contact. So where can we remove police from that will, that will reduce the likelihood of underrepresented groups coming into contact with them. I think another low hanging fruit is school resource officers. We know that when schools have resource officers, they are way more likely to refer minority kids to police than they are the average white kids. We also know that the likelihood of them going to the office or going to be referred to law enforcement are for very minor things like maybe like talking back or uniform violations or some minor things, as opposed to when white kids are referred to the office for more serious offenses, therefore, to us more serious offenses, like vandalism or smoking or skipping school and things like that. So there’s a very low threshold or bar to students of color coming into contact with law enforcement, if you have them in school. And it also costs money, you know, like the schools have to pay for these for these police officers to be there. So there is no incentive for the police not to want to be there because they get paid to do it. And it’s like an easy gig for them. You know, it’s a lot it’s a lot, a lot more of a it’s a lot less worrying I would think, than being on the patrol and never knowing what you’re gonna run up into. But yeah, I think I think reducing space likelihood of contact, but I think also with this, with the defund the police request out now, I think there is some polling that came out recently that showed that African Americans, the majority of African Americans, by over 50% did not want, they actually wanted more cops in certain areas, but they just didn’t want the bad interactions. Right. So if you live in the area that has high crime, you don’t want less police. You just want better policing, right? You know, you don’t want, you don’t want to be harassed by police. You don’t want to be strip searched by police, right? You want them to do their job, but you also want them to do their job without this extra, this negativity, this bias.

Kirsten Wyatt

That’s such a good point because it’s, it’s just such a, the concept or the term defund police I think is so confusing because of the word choice. It’s almost like we need to get a marketer in to, like, better describe, you know, that it’s, I mean, I guess maybe we all just as a as an organization or as a local government community start calling it, you know, to re-imagine or, you know, just improve policing because it’s not, not necessarily always about, like getting rid of cops as much as it is, you know, as you mentioned, you know, making some of these changes in the ways that we’re approaching, you know, law enforcement.

Brandon Davis

Yeah, I don’t think I don’t think people grasp, you know, like city budgets like that or what police are actually paid for. I mean, like, like, like a police department of like a 100 cops, and let’s say this, the citizens say oh, we want body cams, because the police have done some things and they don’t trust them and they want we want body cams. Well, that’s gonna run that department about a quarter of a million dollars a year. Get everybody body cams, to be recorded, to have those body cams, digitized and put on things and you know, you got to have people to watch them, look at them, you know. So it’s like that’s, that’s a lot of money, you know, for body cams. Now, you know, now there’s, there’s something to be said about why we need you to wear body cams, right? Because you’ve been a bad actor, someone’s been a bad actor. But there’s also you know, that cost money, right? Those types of systems cost a lot of money. The you know, I think some of the cars have three or four cameras in them, you know, that’s technology and you have to store the footage. So it’s a it can cost a lot of money to be able to monitor these, to do the body cam system or video camera system.

Kirsten Wyatt

So what’s next for you and your research and your and your academic focus?

Brandon Davis

Oh, well, I’m actually working now and as I was kind of alluding to that intersection of criminal justice, contact and, and, and poverty. And so I’m looking at the effects of welfare receipt on the likelihood of participation in order to take the next step to look at the combined effects of carceral contact and welfare in a community, welfare receipt in a community and its effect on political participation. Because anytime you have interactions with the government or a new policy or something like that, it we like to say it creates a new politics and such that when you have an interaction with government, you have feedback effects. And so those feedback could basically be resource effects, so that if the government let’s say, um, gives you a mortgage discount, that’s going to have a resource feedback effect to make more people apt to purchase homes, or the GI Bill is going to have a feedback effect to make to have more people served in the military and their families go to go to college. And so there’s also interpretive effects. Interpretive effects are learning. So when you have that bad or low quality interaction police department, you learn something in that interaction, right? So you learn, you know, ways to speed the interaction up, you learn a way you, you learn your place in society, you learn your place relative to that person who is stopping you. I was, I was in Maryland giving a talk and one of the individuals there told me that in some parts of Baltimore, when the police drive down the street, kids will just lift their shirt up so the police can see they don’t have a gun. And then for them for them, that is good for them because they get to avoid interactions with the police department. But it’s also rather humiliating to have to pull your shirt up at a passing by car, who may not even be paying you any attention. You know, so it’s just like, it’s that learning, that political learning from that, those feedback effects are important. And you get the same thing from welfare receipt. So the resources often, it often a lot of times are not as robust as they could be. But those resources may still have some type of positive effect on your life because if you get some food assistance, and you were hungry, and now you’re not hungry, those resources can have a positive effect. But at the same time, if the person you’re getting those resources from is, when you have contact with them, that it is it is a low quality contact, when it is a bad contact, you can be getting two different effects at the same time, the positive one from the benefits and a negative one from the contact with the social worker or program worker or something like that. And so I’m trying to figure out how these you know, some of the big some of the big programs work as far as their resource and interpretive feedback effects. And I think after that, I want to try to do a combination of carceral contact and welfare state contact.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and that’s so fascinating. And it’s so useful, I think, for all aspects of government and then thinking specifically about our listeners at the local level, you know, I often see conversations or conference sessions about customer service. And, you know, it’s, it’s sometimes it’s very kind of superficial. It’s, you know, how do you answer the phone? Or how do you, you know, engage with someone who calls or makes a payment or something. But, you know, what, what your research shows, and I think, if we all think about it, we know intuitively is that it’s at all levels, and it’s at all interactions. And it’s not just with someone whose task is, you know, interact with the citizen at this point in time, you know, for this particular service. I mean, it goes so deep through all aspects of what we do and why we all choose to work in public service. And so, I think this research is so important in that larger customer service conversation as well.

Brandon Davis

Yeah, yeah, I think it is, I think, you know, because these, these are these are public, you know, city and state and county employees. They are public administrators. And how they behave has an effect on the people they come into contact with.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and again, it’s and it’s, it’s deeper than just that front-line worker, it’s, you know, it’s that, you know, that case worker or that person who’s working on policy proposals or budgets or any of that, and how that kind of filters through as well. And so a reminder, I think, for all of us and for our listeners at, you know, how important again, that quality of that interaction is and the long term effects that can have.

Brandon DavisYeah, and every organization has a culture. And so that culture is very, thinking just about Mr. Floyd. He was, you know, that guy kneeled on his you know neck for nine minutes in presence of three other officers. So there’s something to be said about their being acceptable, even if they weren’t saying, maybe you should get up it but you know, they weren’t really, you know, it wasn’t really a pushing it, you know, pushing the issue or something like that, you know, so there’s something to be said about their culture. And I think that goes to people saying that, you know, 99% of cops are good. And I’m not trying to say that they aren’t. But what I am saying is that, if we have roughly 700,000 police officers, that means 7000 cops are running amok and doing all this stuff, we don’t like to see how is it they still have jobs? 99% of other cops are good. That doesn’t make any sense. You know, they should be telling them, they should be getting firing them the chief, you know, whatever. But if they’re allowed to run amok, then there’s something to be said about the culture of policing, right? The culture not being accepting of a certain level of lawlessness or rhetoric.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, um, I’ve seen that there’s a meme or that basically is like, in no other profession would this be acceptable, like, with pilots, like would you ever say oh, it’s okay that, you know, 1% of them fly drunk or fall asleep while they’re, you know, flying a plane and, and I mean, it’s, but then for some reason we think it’s okay. And it justifies when it comes to cops and I think, you know, it’s, it is shocking that and that example of 7000 you know, bad cops is frankly just terrifying.

Brandon Davis

Yeah, it’s and that’s and that’s something that’s on the low end right? They say like only 1% is bad.

Kirsten Wyatt

All right, so we’ll end it with a more upbeat question. If you could be the GovLove DJ, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode?

Brandon Davis

I don’t know something kind of like a law, something law related [laughter]. I don’t know. I used to play guitar hero and I used to what was that song, that song On The Steel Horse I Ride?

Kirsten Wyatt

[Laughter] By Bon Jovi?.

Brandon Davis

Bon Jovi. Yeah Yeah.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay, I think you’re the first Bon Jovi requester on Gov love. So I want to thank you for coming in and talking with us. And I hope you’ll come back when your next, your next research paper is done, and share with us what you find. And again, you know, thanks for all the work you do. Thanks for all the work you do at KU, and that wonderful program that they have. And a special thanks to Ruth DeWitt with the program for connecting us. She does great work for the students and the alumni of the program. And we’re really, really thankful for her.

Brandon Davis

Yeah, thank you.

Kirsten Wyatt

So GovLove is produced by a rotating cast of awesome ELGL volunteers, and we’re actually looking for new hosts. And so if you’re listening and you’ve ever thought to yourself, I’d like to be on a podcast that’s all about local government, this is your opportunity. We are now taking applications and you can sign up at ELGL.org and apply and learn more about what it means to contribute to the GovLove podcast. A reminder too that ELGL 20 is just around the corner. This year, we are spreading our annual conference over the full month of October. We’re calling it Local Gov Oktoberfest. And we are covering topics, from strategy to innovation to creative place making to antiracism, efficiency and happiness to make sure that all of these topics are explored for your city, county or special district. For our listeners, you can read a transcript of this episode and learn more about Brandon’s work at elgl.org/Govlove or on Twitter @Govlovepodcast, and if you have a story idea for GovLove, we’d love to hear it. You can send us a message on Twitter or email [email protected] Thank you for listening. This has been GovLove, a podcast about local government.


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