image title

ASU survey finds majority favor creating independent agency to examine police shootings

ASU poll finds support for independent agency to examine police shootings.
February 18, 2022

Trust in police low among Black respondents in Morrison Institute research

A majority of state residents polled by Arizona State University are in favor of establishing an independent agency to investigate law-enforcement shootings.

The survey, conducted last fall by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research unit at ASU, found that 57% of the roughly 1,400 Arizonans surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that an independent statewide agency should be created to investigate shootings by police officers.

Minority-group respondents felt even more strongly: 68% of Black respondents and 64% of Hispanic respondents favor an independent investigative agency for police shootings. The survey results were presented at a webinar Thursday by the Morrison Institute.

The results are significant because a bill has been proposed to create such an agency. House Bill 2650, proposed by Rep. Rusty Bowers, a Republican who is speaker of the state House of Representatives, calls for $24 million to establish a “critical incident bureau” to investigate any discharge of a firearm by a police officer.

Ojmarrh Mitchell, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU, said that in the U.S., the typical model when there is a police shooting is that fellow officers investigate the incident.

Some jurisdictions, in Georgia for example, have an independent agency to examine shooting events.

“What’s interesting is that there’s a growing shift toward implementing these types of independent agencies,” Mitchell said in the webinar. “Several states — I think there are about seven currently — have moved to this model, by law and policy.”

The ASU survey found racial differences in preferences for the makeup of an oversight agency. On a ranked list of five options, 57% of general-population respondents said they would have the most confidence in a task force made up of investigators from several police departments, while 53% preferred a statewide agency created specifically to investigate shootings by police. Black and Hispanic respondents had a slightly stronger preference for a statewide agency instead of a task force – 50% and 52%, respectively.

The survey also found:

  • Trusting police: Only 31% of African American respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they trust the police, compared with 48% of Hispanic respondents and 60% of the general population.
  • Confidence in police investigations: Only 36% of respondents – and 23% of African Americans – have confidence in having the officer’s own police department do an investigation of a shooting.
  • Accountability: When asked to rank investigation outcomes, an overwhelming majority of the respondents, 87%, prioritized a thorough investigation, as well as having the officers involved in the shooting held accountable if the shooting was not justified – 82%.
  • Funding: A majority of overall respondents support using state revenue to create an independent state agency to investigate shootings – 51%, compared with 59% of Black and 54% of Hispanic respondents.
  • Body-worn cameras: A huge majority of respondents – 86% — said that the inclusion of body-worn camera footage makes them more confident about an investigation. Black respondents were less confident – 78%.

However, Black respondents were more likely to believe that release of body-worn camera footage is important or very important after a shooting — 77%, compared with 60% of the general population. A higher percentage of general population respondents, 65%, believed that the police department’s own account of the shooting was important or very important.

Mitchell noted that Black respondents were more interested in seeing body-worn camera footage than hearing the police department account.

“I interpret that as, perhaps because there’s a lack of trust, rather than looking to see what the police said about the shooting they want to look with their own eyes and make their own independent assessment,” he said.

The researchers oversampled African American and Hispanic residents, according to Allison Cook-Davis, associate director for research at the Morrison Institute.

“We were interested in getting specific demographics, like African American and Hispanic population views, and we had to go out of our way to speak to more people in those populations in order to accurately capture those views,” she said.

The survey did not ask respondents’ political affiliation.

“We feel that, given our role in the state and being nonpartisan, it’s important that we’re trying to capture and reflect the views of all residents of Arizona, so I point out that this is not just a poll of registered voters,” said Andrea Whitsett, director of the Morrison Institute.

Top photo by iStock

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


image title

ASU Prep Poly students win NASA challenge

February 18, 2022

Students' experiment 1 of 57 that will be aboard Blue Origin rocket in 2023

When NASA’s Blue Origin rocket launches in January 2023, its cargo will include a 4-by-4-by-8-inch container that weighs a little more than a pound.

Inside that container will be two sponges, a syringe, a motherboard, two cameras, LED light strips and the intelligence and curiosity of six students at Arizona State University’s Preparatory Academy Polytechnic STEM High School.

Those six students — Deaglan Salado, Hafsa Kaysan, Samantha Llagas, Elijah Linman, Ryan Robinson and Sawyer Ganes — were winners in NASA’s TechRise Challenge and are being given $1,500 to design an experiment that will take place during the January flight.

Group photo of high school students

Top row, from left: Ryan Robinson, Elijah Linman and Deaglan Salado. Bottom row, from left: Sawyer Ganes, teacher Irvin Goutcher and Samantha Llagas. (Not pictured: Hafsa Kaysan.) Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The experiment, as titled in the three-page written presentation sent to NASA: "How will Hydrophobic and Non-Hydrophobic Sponges React with Water in Microgravity?"

Before getting into sponges and space, it should be noted what the six students already accomplished just by having their project chosen. Six hundred schools from across the country sent in entries, and schools could send in more than one entry. (ASU Poly submitted more than a dozen). Of those hundreds of entries, only 57 were chosen.

Robinson: “We submitted it, and then I was thinking nothing was going to happen after that.”

Ganes: “We all submitted it just for our grade for our class, and when we were chosen, we were like, ‘How did this happen?'"

Llagas: “It’s just so weird.”

Speaking of weird, how does a high school student come up with the idea to see if sponges absorb water in space like they do, well, in your bathroom?

Teacher Irvin Goutcher said each of his classes had a brainstorming session, ideas were tossed around, someone mentioned sponges, and then the project-based learning class, which the six students attend, created the plan and wrote the paper and diagram submitted to NASA.

The experiment, while sounding a bit intimidating — Non-hydrophobic sponges? Microgravity? — really isn’t. Hydrophobic means waterproof. Hydrophobic sprays for, say, waterproofing shoes can be found on Amazon.

One of the sponges that goes into the container will be sprayed. (And, yes, we’re talking about a sponge you might purchase at Walmart). The other sponge will be non-hydrophobic. The experiment will determine how the different sponges react in microgravity.

“We just want to know what the effect of gravity is on that,” Goutcher said. “Is the gravity what’s pulling the water into the sponge, or is it the effect the sponge has with some sort of capillary action where it will absorb the water whether there’s gravity or not?”

Box with NASA logo on it with students standing in background in classrom

Six students at ASU Preparatory Academy's Polytechnic STEM High School won $1,500 in a competition to design an experiment as part of the NASA TechRise Student Challenge. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The results of the experiment could have practical applications in future space missions.

“We know that storing water in space is one of the things NASA wants to achieve for future travel because people need water,” Kaysan said. “It could have many uses, even for growing vegetation.”

While the premise of the experiment is simple enough, the execution of it is exceedingly difficult. All of the items that have to fit into the container — the cameras, sponges, lights, syringe, etc. — can’t weigh more than a pound because of the weight limit set by NASA. The students are thinking of using micro-cameras that fit onto a dog’s collar.

The experiment will be programmed automatically so it will detect the launch, and then activate when the 11- to 16-minute flight hits microgravity.

“We have one shot,” Salado said.

The syringe will be powered by an actuator that controls the timing of the injection. The students will watch the experiment from ASU Poly, assuming the cameras in the container work, and record it on a micro-SD memory card. Once the rocket returns to Earth, NASA will ship the container to the students — hopefully.

“They said that part, they don’t know, because sometimes rockets land nice and sometimes they don’t,” Goutcher said.

Via Zoom, the students met with NASA officials for the first time on Monday. Their completed container box has to be shipped to NASA by the end of September, but Goutcher is hoping the students will have it finished by the end of May, to coincide with the end of the semester.

Until then, the six students will write code for the motherboard, find sponges suitable for the experiment, test pressurized syringes and appreciate every day that NASA is taking their idea into space.

“Yeah,” Robinson said. “That’s cool.”

Top photo: Students at ASU Prep Poly will build a 500-gram, 4-by-4-by-8-inch enclosed experiment to test how hydrophobic and non-hydrophobic sponges react with water in microgravity. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News