The collective data (see below) clearly state that most Americans have a favorable opinion of law enforcement. Yes, there are differences when it comes to African Americans, Hispanics, and other groups, but regardless, most blacks, Hispanics and others are supportive.
So why are presidential candidates suggesting that you are going to get shot in the back of the head during police stops or claiming police systematic institutional racism?
Are their claims backed by data?
Is it possible that anti-cop charges are having a profound effect on cops leaving, police levels of substance abuse, suicides, and PTSD?
Does it impact increasing violent crime and crime reporting?
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders found himself in a social media storm Saturday night after video surfaced of a statement he made at the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum earlier in the day. When a black student asked Sanders how he should handle getting pulled over by a police officer, Sanders responded “respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head.”
Sanders made the statement during a question-and-answer session at the forum at Benedict College, a historically black college. The student asked Sanders, “If I’m your son, what advice would you give me next time I’m pulled over by a police officer?” “I would respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head, but I would also be very mindful of the fact that as a nation, we have got to hold police officers accountable for the actions that they commit,” he said.
The question was later asked to former Vice President Joe Biden by a black female student.
“If you were my daughter, you’d be a Caucasian girl and you wouldn’t be pulled over,” Biden said. “That’s what’s wrong.”
Biden tweeted out a clip of his answer.
“Institutional racism should no longer exist. As president, I’ll put forward change to help put an end to it,” he said in the clip.
Words Have Meaning
Is the constant, harsh criticism of law enforcement having a detrimental impact on public safety?
From 2015 to 2018, the total number of violent victimizations increased by 28%. The rate of total violent victimizations also increased. The number of violent incidents increased from 5.2 million in 2017 to 6.0 million in 2018, Violent Crime Increases. There is additional data stating that violent crime is becoming more serious in nature.
Police Recruitment Plummeting
There has been a 63% decrease in applicants applying to become a police officer per a national survey, Out Of Cops.
Police Contacts Down
Per Pew,72% say officers in their department are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons. Overall, more than eight-in-ten (86%) say police work is harder today as a result of high-profile, negative incidents.
About nine-in-ten officers (93%) say their colleagues worry more about their personal safety – a level of concern recorded even before a total of eight officers died in separate ambush-style attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Cops Holding Back?
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The data on police PTSD, suicides, drug and alcohol use and general stress is well documented, see Police Stress. Is policing becoming too hard, too emotionally draining? Is that why recruitment and retention are problems?
Does Policing Change You?
There are endless references as to how being a cop changes your personality. “How many domestic violence calls can you handle? How many people shot? How much blood? How many abused children? How much violence can you process?” Crime in America.
The rate of full-time police officers decreased by 11 percent from 1997 to 2016, Declining Cops.
But Public Confidence in Law Enforcement is High
The data states that policing is one of the most respected professions in the US and the world, and research documents that the overwhelming number of people stopped by law enforcement felt that they acted responsibly, Confidence in Police.
Eighty-five percent of Americans either have a great deal or some confidence in law enforcement. The media and Congress are at the bottom of the ratings.
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.
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.
Most people view federal law enforcement favorably regardless as to political affiliation, Pew.
Most Americans believe that following the law is a hallmark of good citizenship, Pew.
When it comes to unethical behavior, cops rank higher than members of Congress, journalists, religious leaders and heads of tech companies, Pew.
Gallup’s 2018 Global Law and Order report state that US and Canadian police are the world’s most trusted law enforcement officers based on a measure of confidence, Gallup.
I know of people who are telling their police officer family members to, “Get out of law enforcement. And get out now.”
There are endless stories of officers being shot, shot at and beaten. New York City has dozens of incidents where people are brazenly throwing water and other substances on cops as they patrol. In Baltimore, Chicago, and many other cities, officers are facing extremely hostile community members.
Cops are being berated for misuse of social media in a variety of newspapers.
Years ago, I became a cop based on my pride in the job and the satisfaction that the vast majority of citizens appreciated what I did. Take that away and many believe that being a police officer is meaningless.
We are losing a ton of cops. Proactive (self-initiated) contacts are down. Violent crime and serious violent incidents are going up per one index from the US Department of Justice.
There may come a time, and it may happen sooner than we think, where we see more dangerous communities and increased threats to families and loved ones.
We’ve been very hard on cops and yes, some of the negative publicity is accurate. There is a long and disastrous history of police abuse of power. We in the justice system need to own our history and acknowledge the pain.
But presidential candidates who accuse “all” current cops as brutal or are engaging in systemic institutionalized racism are clearly guilty of the sins of group prejudice. If you can stigmatize “all” cops, you can stigmatize any group.
There are 700,000 cops and 300,000 civilian police employees. About 1 in 4 officers, and 1 in 5 first-line supervisors were black or Hispanic. About 1 in 8 full-time sworn officers, and about 1 in 10 first-line supervisors were female, Bureau Of Justice Statistics.
Is it ethical to state that “all” cops, regardless as to groups they represent, are part of the problems mentioned by the Democratic candidates?
Is it proper to suggest that “all” officers are unsupported by the American public when the data says otherwise?
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
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