The data from a variety of sources indicate that those coming into contact with law enforcement (rather than a general public opinion poll) rate the interactions highly. This is somewhat astounding considering that many police encounters are not positive experiences yet the great majority of respondents rate the interactions as positive, respectful, and fair.
The data below was collected as nationwide protests took place after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They are based on a June 23-July 6 Gallup survey. The data was released on July 30, 2020, and was offered via my Gallup email feed on September 10, 2020.
Seventy-five percent of respondents said that their police interaction was a positive experience including most Hispanic and Black individuals polled.
Eighty-six percent of respondents said that they were treated with respect including most Hispanic and Black individuals polled.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they were treated fairly including most Hispanic and Black individuals polled.
Number Of Interactions With Law Enforcement
Per Gallup, “Less than half of White Americans (44%) and Black Americans (42%), and about half of Hispanic Americans (49%), say they have interacted with police in the past 12 months. The majority in each of these groups report that the interactions were generally positive.”
Previous research on interactions with law enforcement show mostly positive results (see below).
For those of us who look at polling data, the numbers expressed above as to a positive experience, respect and fairness are quite high. Yes, there are differences between White, Black, and Hispanic Americans, but look at polls on any subject, especially those with highly emotional content, and you typically find lower approval ratings regardless of the institution.
Pre the previously published data below, you get mixed signals as to polling data as to confidence in law enforcement. Confidence in the police fell five points to 48%, yet when adding all three categories, a great deal of confidence, quite a lot, and some, 81 percent expressed a level of confidence in law enforcement.
Per the data below, there are considerable differences in White and Black levels of confidence in the police, yet the majority (or the great majority) of Black adults rate their interactions with law enforcement highly (chart above).
The two Gallup polls below were offered on August 12 while Gallup data above was offered on July 30 with the headline, “For Black Americans, 41% of Police Encounters Not Positive.” It appeared in my Gallup email feed on September 10, 2020.
You can present data to fit a preconceived point of view but the Gallup data offered above matches previous numbers provided by the US Department of Justice stating “An estimated 40 million U.S. residents age 16 or older, or about 17 percent of the population, had a face-to-face contact with a police officer in one year. Among people who had face-to-face contacts, about nine out of 10 residents felt the police were respectful or acted properly,” Bureau of Justice Statistics.
There is no doubt that law enforcement and the Black community have issues that need to be addressed. A dedication to equal treatment and a service orientation needs vast improvement.
But the data from a variety of sources indicate that those coming into contact with law enforcement (rather than a general public opinion poll) rate the interactions highly. This is somewhat astounding considering that many police encounters are not positive experiences yet the great majority of respondents rate the interactions as positive, respectful, and fair (similar to previous research).
For an organization that had been demonized by endless negative media (some of it deserved) the results above are both unexpected and somewhat surprising.
Please note that 71 law enforcement officers died in the World Trade Center attacks. As of September 28, 2008, a total of over 33,000 police officers, firefighters, responders, and community members have been treated for injuries and sickness related to the 9/11 attacks, Wikipedia. Public opinion of law enforcement was at a very high level afterward.
With the current unrest facing American cities and the countless injuries of police officers, and well over a hundred police officers dying from COVID-19, it’s possible that public opinion could be shifting.
Previous Research Summations:
Gallup-Confidence in Law Enforcement-81 Percent Expressed A level Of Confidence In Law Enforcement
Per Gallup, the police stand alone as seeing a significant decline in the past year. Confidence in the police fell five points to 48%, marking the first time in the 27-year trend that this reading is below the majority level. This drop follows the public outcry after George Floyd was killed during an arrest in Minneapolis in late May, which sparked nationwide protests against excessive use of force by the police. This measure has been as high as 64% in the past. Confidence in the police rose seven points among Republicans to 82% and dropped six points among Democrats to 28%.
Yet when adding all three categories, a great deal of confidence, quite a lot, and some, 81 percent expressed a level of confidence in law enforcement.
As to a great deal of confidence, law enforcement did better than the medical system, public schools, the Supreme Court, the presidency, banks, unions, tech companies, newspapers, the justice system, big business, television news, and Congress. Policing came within two points of organized religion. Only small businesses and the military were significantly higher. The findings are similar for the “quite a bit” category with only the medical system, the military, and small business exceeding law enforcement.
Of the 16 institutions rated this year, Gallup has tracked 14 annually since 1993. Americans’ average confidence in these 14 overall edged up slightly this year compared with the prior two years, from 33% to 36%. Yet, it remains below the 43% highs recorded in 2001-2004, Gallup.
Gallup-White and Black Confidence In Law Enforcement
Fifty-six percent of White adults and 19% of Black adults say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police. This 37-percentage-point racial gap is the largest found for any of 16 major U.S. institutions rated in Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll.
By contrast, Black and White respondents express similar levels of confidence in half of the institutions rated, showing gaps of five points or less.
As a whole, Americans are most confident in small business and the military. These are two of the eight institutions that show meaningful racial differences, including a 17-point difference on small business (84% of White respondents and 67% of Black respondents are confident) and 19 points on the military (78% and 59%, respectively).
Other institutions viewed differently by White and Black Americans include the Supreme Court, the criminal justice system, TV news and large technology companies. The latter two are the only institutions in which Black adults express greater confidence than White adults — 29% of Black respondents and 16% of White respondents are confident in TV news, while 39% of Black respondents and 30% of White respondents are confident in large technology companies, Gallup.
Gallup-African Americans Want Police To Stay Or Increase Presence
When asked whether they want the police to spend more time, the same amount of time or less time than they currently do in their area, most Black Americans — 61% — want the police presence to remain the same. This is similar to the 67% of all U.S. adults preferring the status quo, including 71% of White Americans.
Meanwhile, nearly equal proportions of Black Americans say they would like the police to spend more time in their area (20%) as say they’d like them to spend less time there (19%).
Fewer than one in five Black Americans feel very confident that the police in their area would treat them with courtesy and respect. While similar to the 24% of Asian Americans saying the same, it is markedly lower than the 40% of Hispanic Americans and the 56% of White Americans who feel this way, Gallup.
Before Floyd, Public Opinion Was Mostly Positive
An estimated 40 million U.S. residents age 16 or older, or about 17 percent of the population, had a face-to-face contact with a police officer in one year. Among people who had face-to-face contacts, about nine out of 10 residents felt the police were respectful or acted properly, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics study, police used or threatened to use force in less than two percent of contacts.
Even in fragile communities (i.e., high unemployment), a study finds that 74% of fragile-community residents vs. 87% of Americans overall think people like themselves are treated “very fairly” or “fairly” by their local police. The results vary by racial group: Black (65%) and Hispanic (72%) residents of fragile communities are considerably less likely than white residents (87%) to say people like themselves are treated fairly by police, Gallup.
Defunding The Police
Most Americans agree that police should undergo major changes but do not support abolishing police departments nationwide, according to a Gallup poll, which found that just 15 percent of Americans support getting rid of the police, Gallup.
Every poll I’ve seen indicates similar results, the great majority do not want law enforcement agencies defunded.
“Grassroots activists and younger Democrats who have spoken with BuzzFeed News this week say they’ve been disappointed in party leaders — including Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Black Congressional leaders including Rep. Jim Clyburn and CBC Chair Karen Bass — as they’ve watched them swiftly turn away from those conversations, emphatically rejecting the idea of defunding police as they face immediate attacks from Republicans,” BuzFeed.
The nation’s black mayors have devised a Peace Pact for Community Centered Policing, the Washington Post reports. The plan by the African American Mayors Association does not favor defunding the police.
Confidence in Law Enforcement Shaken
From The Crime Report: A majority of Americans support Black Lives Matter and a record 69 percent say black people and other minorities are not treated as equal to white people in the criminal justice system. The public opposes calls to shift some police funding to social services, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. The findings underscore the mixed fallout after the killing of George Floyd. There is increased public scrutiny of police treatment of Blacks, but less unity on broader questions. Stark divisions exist between different racial groups and among varied political identities.
Confidence in police appears shaken after a wave of national protests. Compared with 2014, fewer Americans say they are confident that police are adequately trained to avoid using excessive force. More people say recent police killings of Black people are “a sign of broader problems” in police conduct.
The share of Americans saying that Blacks and other minorities do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system has risen by 15 percentage points from 2014. This year marks the first time a majority of whites has held this view. When compared with 2014, around the time of the killings of African Americans Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, larger shares of virtually every demographic group and every age group now say that minorities do not receive treatment equal to white people in the criminal justice system. The share of white Democrats who say Black people and other minorities do not receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system rose 19 points to 89 percent. White Republicans inched up seven points to 36 percent.
Via media reports, it’s well documented that police officers are leaving the job; family members are insisting that they get out, and get out now. Recruitment is down 63 percent. Retention is becoming difficult. Are we now Running Out Of Cops?
Due to intense criticism, cops are holding back (not being proactive) in a multitude of cities and violence is increasing, Arrests And Increasing Violence. Police officers are calling in sick in Atlanta and cities throughout the country. A DC police union survey says 71 percent of those polled are considering leaving, FOX DC.
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Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Aspiring drummer.