Date of Conferral







James Herndon


Negative public perceptions toward law enforcement officers (LEOs) have increased in recent years as the result of police shootings of unarmed men. Researchers have focused on urban residents' perceptions toward LEOs, but have not examined the perceptions of rural residents. The purpose of this quantitative study was to examine the relationship between the dependent variable (DV) of rural citizens' perceptions toward LEOs and the independent variables (IVs) of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, income, employment status, educational attainment, and immigration status. The social judgment theory and the primary socialization theory were used as the theoretical foundations to determine how the IVs affected the DV. A sample of 282 residents from southeastern Colorado completed the Perceptions of Police Scale and a demographics questionnaire. Multiple linear regressions were conducted to examine the relationship between the DV and the IVs. Results indicated that as educational attainment increased, perceptions toward LEOs increased. Residents had a positive perception toward LEOs on a number of scale items: Residents agreed that the police were helpful, provided safety, and protected them. Findings may be used to develop interventions to improve relationships between LEOs and residents living in rural areas who continue to have negative perceptions of the police.

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