A multidetector optical scattering instrument is described and characterized. The instrument has twenty-eight detectors surrounding and substantially covering the scattering hemisphere. Each detector contains a polarizer so that each is only sensitive to p-polarized scattered light. The polarization of the incident light is linear and can be rotated into any angle. With this instrument, polarized light scattering measurements can be performed in multiple directions at once. The utility of this instrument is demonstrated by measuring the light scattered from a microrough silicon sample and silicon surfaces containing different sizes of polystyrene latex spheres. The results are compared to the predictions of theoretical calculations. It is shown that the distribution of polarization parameters for each of the different sizes of spheres and for microroughness are different. It is expected that designs similar to the one presented here will allow for improved on-line characterization of defects on smooth surfaces.