Boston Indicators Blog Returns | City of Ideas
Nationally, American confidence in police reached a historic low in 2015. Only 52 percent of Americans had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police according to a Gallup’s 2015 polling of Americans confidence in institutions.
Since then, confidence in police has rebounded slightly, reaching 56 percent in Gallup’s 2016 polling. During the 22 year tracking period, confidence in police has remained within the narrow interval between 52 percent and 64 percent, implying growing wariness of law enforcement in recent years. The last time only 52 percent of Americans had a high level of confidence in their police was in 1993, when four LA police officers were acquitted in their trial for the beating of Rodney King. Despite a relative low, the police force remains one of the highest ranking institutions in terms of American trust; it trails only small business and the military.
For good reason, trust in police varies by demographics. In 2015 , only 30 percent of the Black population and 42 percent of the Hispanic population had a high level of trust in police compared to 57 percent of whites. Although the publicized police shootings of unarmed black men contribute to distrust of police, 2015 does not represent an outlier year. In fact, as far back as the data goes, minorities report more distrust in police than whites do. For this reason, Blacks confidence in police has not declined disproportionately compared to whites in these turbulent years; they already had low confidence in law enforcement.
The African American population is justified in their greater distrust of police due to empirical evidence that police treat blacks differently than they do whites. A Special Report by the U.S. Department of Justice on police behavior during street stops found that relatively more black drivers (13 percent) than white drivers (10 percent) were pulled over by police officers. Furthermore, of those involved in street stops, a smaller percentage of blacks than whites believed the officers behaved properly during the stop. The National Bureau of Economic Research published an analysis on racial difference in police use of force that corroborates perceptions of unfair treatment. The study tracked various indicators that revealed law enforcement were more likely to use force and resort to weapons, specifically with regards to black citizens in New York City.
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