World news – Perception of the police using PPE during the pandemic


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January 13, 2021

from Simon Fraser University

A study by Simon Fraser University of the public perception of police officers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) during the current pandemic shows that most PPE creates positive police perceptions, while some devices, including full face masks, may be rated more negatively. The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology on January 9th.

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Led by Rylan Simpson, Assistant Professor of Criminology at SFU, and Ryan Sandrin, MA student, the online experimental study was based on a sample of 117 participants residing in North America. Participants were randomly selected to read one of three fictional news articles that were either pro-PSA (highlighting health benefits), neutral, or anti-PSA (with no health benefits). Participants were then asked to rate 12 images of a uniformed male officer wearing different types of PPE alone, in combination, or without PPE.

PPE tested included a surgical mask, an N95 mask, a full face mask, a Safety glasses, a face mask and disposable medical gloves. The researchers note that some of these PPE items (like respirators, face shields, and gloves) have traditionally been associated with negative news when used by the police (including hostility and militarization).

« It’s novel and important to the functionality and perception that police officers routinely use medical equipment, « says Simpson.

 » In the past, we have seen the police in situations of public disruption where tear gas and / or other chemical agents are used respirators and face masks are used. Now we see police using this equipment in response to situations where carriers of COVID-19 may be present, « he says.

The researchers found that most of the species PPE had an impact on perception. For example, wearing a face shield, surgical mask, or N95 mask improved officers’ sense of responsibility and professionalism.

Full face respirators showed more mixed results. While study participants found the officer wearing a full-faced respirator to be more responsible and professional, some found it more intimidating. For participants reading the article against PPE, the use of a respirator also increased the perception of aggression and decreased the perception of approach and friendliness.

The study’s authors note that the Vancouver police force their officers gloves and in person provided breathing masks and recommend their use if applicable. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also recommended officials use eye protection products, such as face shields and safety glasses, to protect themselves from viruses.

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