Taking all recent polling data together, the overwhelming number of Americans have relatively high opinions of law enforcement regardless of background.
Differences as to race or political affiliation exist but that doesn’t negate strong support for cops.
USA Today released two new polls on race and law enforcement. Both are summarized below.
Opinions of law enforcement are both complex and are skewed by race and political identification. Other polls break it down further by income and age groups.
Depending on one or two polls can be misleading which is why I added a summation (see below) of recent polls on law enforcement.
Opinions of law enforcement are strong among supporters and detractors. Many cops hate this discussion because they believe that the American media/public has turned their backs on them resulting in recruitment and retention problems.
Some are critical of law enforcement regardless of the data. The vast majority of what detractors say about policing is not based on research, Myths and law Enforcement.
Yes, there is a history of use of force concerns and minority relations that have to be addressed and improved. Cops are there to serve all, nothing more, nothing less. Our oaths demand equal application of the law for everyone.
But if the comments of Presidents Biden, Trump, and Obama are to be believed, the vast majority of cops are decent people trying to do a complex and dangerous job with as little friction as possible.
Taking all the polling data together, the overwhelming number of Americans have relatively high opinions of law enforcement. Differences as to race or political affiliation exist but that doesn’t negate the statement above.
Violent Crime Increased Dramatically
Increasing violence impacts perceptions of law enforcement. Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, violent crime increased 28 percent since 2015 (the year of the Freddie Gray incident and numerous additional disturbances). Serious violent crime increased. Fear of crime is at an all-time high. Gun purchases are skyrocketing. People and businesses are leaving cities. A variety of sources have documented a dramatic increase in homicides and other forms of violence, US Crime Rates.
Protests-riots creating two billion dollars in insurance claims also influence the public support for cops.
There are endless newspaper articles citing instances of cops leaving the job. Some cities don’t have enough officers to patrol their streets (i.e., Minneapolis). Per the Police Executive Research Forum, recruitment is down by 63 percent. Because of the violence directed towards police officers and COVID deaths, family members are telling loved ones to get out of policing, and to get out now, Cops Leaving.
People who read these articles are influenced to support policing. They understand that cops are their only front-line protectors.
Trust in Law Enforcement-New Data-USA Today (edited and rearranged quotes)
Trust in local police and law enforcement has risen to 69%.
Among Black respondents, trust in Black Lives Matter has fallen by 12 points and trust in local police has risen by 14 points. Among white respondents, trust in Black Lives Matter has fallen by 8 points and trust in local police has risen by 12 points.
In the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters, the scales have tipped toward law enforcement. By double digits, 49%-31%, those surveyed say it is more important to ensure law and order.
Defunding The Police-New Data-USA Today (edited and rearranged quotes)
Support to redistribute police department funding has decreased among Americans since August after a summer of protests had erupted across the country against racial injustice and police brutality, a recent Ipsos/USA TODAY poll found.
Only 18% of respondents supported the movement known as “defund the police,” and 58% said they opposed it. Though white Americans (67%) and Republicans (84%) were much more likely to oppose the movement, only 28% of Black Americans and 34% of Democrats were in favor of it.
But respondents were less opposed to the idea of redirecting police funds to social services, though a 57% majority was still against the idea. Forty-three percent of Americans supported the idea. Those numbers represented a slight decline from August, after the peak of the protests, when 53% were opposed and 47% were in favor of redirecting police spending.
Previous Data-Public Perceptions Of law Enforcement
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.
Fragile Communities Want More Cops
68% of Chicago’s “fragile community” (i.e., low income) residents want a greater police presence.
54 percent of low-income communities nationally want more police officers, (upcoming article based on A Gallup Poll).
Nine Out of 10 Residents Felt The Police Were Respectful
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.
Having said this, it’s inevitable that out of 40 million yearly encounters, some will go bad. It’s a statistical reality.
Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics study, police used or threatened to use force in less than two percent of contacts.
Police Citizen Contacts
Some media commentators suggest that police use of force is growing/common/frequent during stops. Less than 3% of U.S. residents experienced a threat “or” use of force during their most recent police-initiated contact.
Contrary to media reports, the use of force decreased for police-initiated contacts from 3.3 to 2.8 percent.
Contrary to critics, police-initiated arrests decreased considerably, 815,000 in 2015-386,000 in 2018.
There are suggestions that public confidence and a willingness to interact with law enforcement declined. Contact with law enforcement increased, 53,496,000 in 2015-61,542,000 in 2018. Most of this was resident-initiated (27,060,000 in 2015-35,468,000 in 2018).
The lowest and highest income household incomes had the same amount of police-initiated contact (11.4-11.5 percent), thus contradicting those who argue that proactive police contact is directed solely towards low-income communities, Police Myths
Best in The World
Gallup’s 2018 Global Law and Order report state that US and Canadian police are the world’s most trusted law enforcement officers, Most Trusted.
Per Gallup, The Majority Of Americans Rate Police Encounters 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.
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.
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, Confidence in Law Enforcement.
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.
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.
Despite immense negative media coverage, the vast majority of Americans, regardless of who they are, view law enforcement favorably. Cops may be taking a hit right now, but public opinion will bounce back. It always does.
Yes, cops are bewildered and angry, and we will probably lose a lot of police officers. Recruitment and retention will be problems and violence will probably increase. People will flee cities.
“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all other forms of that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters,” Winston Churchhill.
We live in tumultuous times and some people “currently” have a diminished view of law enforcement. But democracy is messy and times like this are inevitable. Cops with the best of intentions make mistakes. Some do worse; some are criminal. There are times where the media gives us the benefit of doubt and there are times when we get slammed.
But law enforcement will regain its esteem. It’s interesting that many of the protestors of the 1960s and 1970s (who are current friends) are aghast at the current level of violence at protests and in cities due to street crime.
I suggest that the majority of Americans feel the same way. They are not excusing the stupid and sometimes criminal actions on the part of some police officers but everyone understands that we collectively stand or fall through through civil discourse and the rule of law. We can’t continue as a functioning country without compromise and respectful discussion.
But critics of law enforcement need to pay attention to the data and temper their opinions before we lose more cops and violence in cities gets worse.
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
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