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Five Key Takeaways from a New Poll on Confidence in Police

Five Key Takeaways from a New Poll on Confidence in Police

At the end of last month, the Pew Research Center released new data from a poll of white and black Americans on their confidence in the police serving their community. This comes after a summer marked by the deaths of Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Tyre King and many other black Americans in interactions with law enforcement, as well as the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Texas. During these tense moments, when Americans of all races are struggling to make sense of the ongoing pattern of violence and mistrust, these five takeaways from Pew’s survey can help us understand how black and white communities view these urgent issues:

1. Limited confidence amongst all Americans in the police reflects a larger lack of confidence in community institutions. The poll revealed that only about one-third of Americans have a lot of confidence in their local police departments. When asked about other institutions, this number sharply decreased – only 17% of Americans have a lot of confidence in the courts and only 15% have a lot of confidence in their city or local governments.

2. There is a notable racial gap in confidence in local police. According to the survey, nearly a quarter of black people have no confidence in the police, while only 6% of white people feel the same way. On the other end of the spectrum, 42% of white people and only 14% of black people have a lot of confidence in the police.

3. More than twice as many white people as black people think the police is treating racial and ethnic groups equally. This is also true when asked about whether the police is using the right amount of force in each situation. For both questions, 75% of white people said the police was behaving appropriately, while only about a third of black people agreed.

4. There is more agreement about the nature of police-involved deaths of black people. 60% of Americans believe that these fatal encounters are signs of a broader problem. Still, 44% of white Americans view these deaths as isolated incidents, while 79% of black Americans view them as part of a larger issue.

5. The greatest agreement exists around the use of body cameras worn by police officers. 93% of Americans support the use of cameras that allow police to record their interactions with the community, 95% of white people and 85% of black people.

As a Reform Jewish Movement, we are animated by the command in Deuteronomy 16:18: “You shall appoint judges and officers for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.” The pronounced racial disparities identified in the Pew survey show that there is clear disagreement in our country as to whether our officers are governing “with due justice.” A system that reflects these values can inspire greater confidence in the police, courts and other institutions that cuts across racial lines. That is why we are committed to ending systems that perpetuate racial inequity, applauding authorities that are reforming their police departments, and pushing for bipartisan criminal justice reform in Congress.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Tim Pierce.

Jacob Kraus is the campaign organizer at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, leading the Reform Movement’s Urgency of Now campaigns for criminal justice reform and immigrant justice. Based at the Union for Reform Judaism offices in New York City, Jacob grew up in Cincinnati, OH, where his family is affiliated with Rockdale Temple. He is a 2015 graduate of Macalester College.

Jacob Kraus

Published: 10/31/2016