To explore people’s attitudes towards local law enforcement, it is necessary to use qualitative data that will provide in-depth information concerning the issue. It is possible to consider such qualitative tools as interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and action research. The interview can be regarded as one of the most efficient methods that enable the researcher to examine people’s views, ideas, feelings, and so on. Interviewees share their ideas on the topic, and the process is guided by a set of prepared questions that can be extended (Maxfield, 2015). To address the research topic mentioned above, it is possible to run a number of interviews with several individuals. It is noteworthy that the number of participants is often quite limited due to the peculiarities of the research method and the need to analyze a vast amount of data to be analyzed.
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As for focus groups, this tool can also be employed. It is possible to recruit different representatives of the community and carry out one or several discussions (depending on the number of participants). This method enables the researcher to elicit the views and perspectives of a larger sample as compared to interviews (Maxfield, 2015). It can be more informative and open as people tend to reveal their perspectives and discuss different opinions. During discussions, life stories, feelings, concerns, and fears can be shared.
As far as observations are concerned, this tool can be quite effective. For instance, the researcher can collect data when attending some public places (pubs, parks, and so on). The researcher can initiate discussions concerning people’s attitudes toward local law enforcement. Covert observations can help the researcher observe behaviors and identify some opinions of individuals in certain settings (Miller & Tewksbury, 2014). Nevertheless, some ethical issues arise as the participants do not even know that they take part in a study.
Action research can also be utilized as a data collection method. Action research involves the planning and development of some interventions. At that, the researcher takes part in the intervention (Miller & Tewksbury, 2014). To explore people’s attitudes towards local law enforcement agencies, it is possible to develop an intervention that will involve the participation of law enforcement officers and people living in the community. The intervention can involve lectures and workshops on some topics (for example, police officers’ rights, individuals’ rights, and so on). People will inevitably reveal their attitudes in this or that way.
Although all the four methods mentioned above can be used, the best way to address the research topic is focus groups. This data collection method enables the researcher to examine the views of dozens of people within quite a short period of time. Of course, the researcher should create questions that would encourage the participants to share openly and manage the discussions to create a favorable atmosphere (Maxfield, 2015). In this case, it is possible to collect people’s exact views and ideas concerning the topic. Other methods are less effective in this respect. For example, interviews can be held with a smaller number of participants. During covert observations, it can be difficult to make people share their ideas, and their remarks can be unreliable as people often say something they do not really mean. Action research is quite a time- and effort-consuming, and it may be difficult to identify the exact views of people. Therefore, focus group discussions should be used to identify people’s views on the matter.
Miller, J. M., & Tewksbury, R. (2014). The case of edge ethnography. In H. Copes (Ed.), Advancing qualitative methods in criminology and criminal justice (pp. 101-116). New York, NY: Routledge.
Maxfield, M. G. (2015). Basics of research methods for criminal justice and criminology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.