Media Scan

Trends 1

Trends in Searches Performed Related to the Report

Google search trends provide an indication of web search traffic related to the Report recommendations. This scan is based on Google Trends, which provides analytics on searches made in Google search engines during specified time periods and from specified countries. Based on these analytics, the charts below show search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the United States for the given time period. For example, a score of 100 is the peak popularity for the term while a score of 50 means that the term was half as popular relative to its peak, and a score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.

Interest in the search term “21st Century Policing” spiked in March and May 2015, when the interim and final Reports were released. Interest spiked even higher in July 2016, with highly publicized discourse around the police shootings of Anton Sterling and Philando Castile, and President Obama called attention to the Task Force recommendations. This interest peaked in June 2020, after the death of George Floyd in late May 2020.

Figure 1 

Google Search Term Interest in “21st Century Policing,” June 1, 2014, to February 28, 2021
The Report reinforced and introduced several policing concepts and themes. To scan the interest in some of the most widely recognized themes over time, NPF staff examined the search history of key terms. The thematic words most commonly mentioned in the Task Force report executive summary were “Community” (35), “Train” (21), “Policy” (17), “Force” (13), and “Justice” (12). Figure 4 displays the relative interest in related search terms, “Community Policing,” “Police Training,” “Police Policy,” “Police Force,” and “Procedural Justice.”

Figure 2

Google Search Term Interest in “21st Century Policing,” June 1, 2014, to February 28, 2021
Google searches for “Police Force” were the highest compared to each of the other search terms. Before May 2020, searches for “Police Force” peaked in April 2015 around the same time as the deaths of Freddie Gray and Walter Scott, and rose again in July 2016 with the deaths of Anton Sterling and Philando Castile. Alongside these spikes in interest in “Police Force,” searches for “Police Training” remained higher than searches for “Police Force” in most months over the time period examined, potentially indicating a widespread interest in solutions to improve police training and avoid seemingly disproportionate police uses of force in the future. Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, monthly search interest in “Police Force” and “Police Training” more than doubled their previous peaks. Notably, while many of these searches increased during times of publicized, controversial police uses of force, searches were relatively constant over time, which may indicate a sustained interest in police practices among members of the public. Searches for “Police Policy” remained high but related to a variety of search focuses, most commonly including “Policy Body Camera Policy,” “Police Brutality,” and “Police Tattoo Policy.” Positive news also influenced search term popularity. Searches for “Community Policing” peaked in October 2016 as the Obama Administration designated October 2-8, 2016 as National Community Policing Week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch continued her 12-city Community Policing Tour, and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) distributed $119 million to 184 law enforcement agencies to hire community policing officers.3

Trends 2

Media Review

Google News results demonstrate a degree of diffusion of specific terminology from the Report over time. The NPF assessment team scanned these results to quantify news articles over time that mention key words associated with the Report.4 As with the total Google search interest over time, news results by month displayed in Figure 5 show spikes in the number of unique articles that the “President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing” was mentioned in the weeks after the final report was released. Following the deaths of Anton Sterling and Philando Castile, mentions reached an initial high of over 70 unique stories published in July 2016. The number of news results also spiked in May 2020 following the death of George Floyd.

Figure 3

Figure 4

News articles with the term “21st Century Policing” (displayed in Figure 6) were more common and, with the exception of May 2020, were used more steadily over time than specific mentions of the Task Force. News results indicate that the term “21st Century Policing” was rarely used in the months before the creation of the Task Force. From May 2015 to April 2020, the term has been found in an average 84 unique news stories a month, ranging from 10 to 174. As with the Report, results in May 2020 spiked to 471.

Figure 5

Google News: Community Policing

Comparatively, news results with the term “community policing” (displayed in Figure 7) have greatly increased over time. “Community policing” was already a somewhat common term, used from June through December 2014 in over 3,000 unique articles. Since the Report release, the use of the term in news stories has increased, reaching a high of 11,600 in March 2020.

Cover Photo Source: Boston Police Department Facebook
1. For more, see:
3. US. Department of Justice. (2017). Community policing week. See also:
4. The media scan of the “President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing” was conducted on July 9, 2020, and the scan of “21st Century Policing” and “Community Policing” were conducted on June 23, 2020. These searches were then redone on March 15, 2021 to bring the results up to date through the end of February 2021. Using Google News searches by month, these results do not include news stories deemed by Google to be duplicative, and results may include international news stories that include these search terms. Given the time period when this scan was conducted, it is important to recognize that older news results may have been lost and results are dependent on Google’s current search algorithms. Further, Google has begun limiting the number of search results which appear per domain to have more diversity in listings.