Why Do We Mistrust American Opinions Of Law Enforcement?


Whenever I write about the high marks the public gives American law enforcement, there are multiple caustic remarks from cops. Many believe that the public has deserted them due to negative incidents and harsh media coverage.

There are two groups of people I like to drink adult beverages with, veteran cops and seasoned street reporters. Both are hilariously sarcastic about anyone representing ordinary society, including their own bureaucracies. Both wallow in man’s inhumanity. Both see life as it is.

When I tell cops that they are one of the most respected professions in America, many reject the assertion outright. They see American society as fickle or unsupportive. They understand that there have been unlucky or overly aggressive or brutal cops who have tainted the profession. But they don’t think the criticism applies to the vast majority of officers.

Having American society stereotype them based on the actions of a few is, in their mind, the same fundamental basis or any other form of prejudice.  If you can declare well over a million people as unworthy of trust based on the actions of a few, in their opinion, you’re the same as those racist or sexist.

The same dilemma applies to critics and their endless disapproval of law enforcement. They embrace anecdotal incidents. They ignore the data.

One Example-Estimates As To Police Killings Of Unarmed Black Men By Law Enforcement-The Skeptic 

In a chart offered by The Skeptic, people (based on political affiliation) estimated the number of unarmed Black men killed by law enforcement.

Estimates ranged from 100 to 1,000 to 10,000 to more than 10,000 with those claiming a liberal affiliation leading the way as to higher estimates. However, all groups including moderates to conservatives grossly exaggerated the numbers.

According to the Washington Post database, regarded as the “most complete database,” 13 unarmed black men were fatally shot by police in 2019. According to a second database called “Mapping Police Violence”, compiled by data scientists and activists, 27 unarmed black men were killed by police (by any means).

The Skeptic

“Unarmed” doesn’t mean that the person didn’t impose a threat to himself or others. It doesn’t mean that a police officer couldn’t justifiably believe that he was armed (i.e., taking a shooter’s stance).

According to Department of Justice research, most violent crime does not involve a firearm yet endless victims are injured or killed.

Report: 76% of female murders were committed by someone they knew – here’s a look at the numbers

Perception Has An Impact on Public Safety?

It’s the opinion of many in law enforcement, partially because of the “perception” of public opinion, arrests plummeted from 14 million to 4.5 million. As one officer respondent stated, “It’s like arrests are now illegal.”

Response time is down considerably. We have a 60 percent decline in searches and arrests during street stops. Tens of thousands of cops are leaving the profession per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Urban violence is up significantly. Correctional populations are at record lows.

Because of the “perception” of unfairness, families are telling their police officer loved ones to get out of the profession and to get out now. It doesn’t help when well over 300 police officers are shot and over 60,000 are assaulted. Ambushes of police officers are up along with police suicides.

Yet here I go again pointing out the fact that, regardless of demographics, the vast majority of Americans trust and support law enforcement.

Let the carping from both sides begin.

Officer Down: Deputy shot – reportedly manages to fire back before going down. Here’s what we know.

88 Percent of Americans Reported That They Were Satisfied

Per a replicated national poll from the US Department of Justice, 88 percent of Americans reported that they were satisfied with their police response, with 93% saying they would be more or as likely to contact police again in the future.

Approximately 4% of residents experienced some type of police action during their most recent police-initiated or traffic accident-related contact, with 3% experiencing the threat or use of force. Overall use or threat of force (all encounters) or threat of force was two percent.

About 1% of U.S. residents experienced misconduct during their most recent contact with police.

Based on contact with 54 million people, this poll, offered for the third time with similar results, solidly refutes common stereotypes.


Bureau Of Justice Statistics

What Professions Do Americans Trust? 82 Percent Trust Cops 

First, understand that relatively few Americans agree with, advocate or trust any organization, concept, or opinion. We are a mostly segmented society giving mostly low marks or allegiances depending on the topic. With that in mind, what’s below is from Gallup:

In addition to three healthcare-related fields, just one other profession is held in high regard among a majority of Americans — high school teachers, who are rated highly by 53% of U.S. adults.

Aside from police officers, who have a 50% high ethics rating, no more than 41% rate any of the remaining 13 professions highly for their honesty. However, most of these professions’ images are merely middling rather than subpar.

  • Real estate agents (55%) and bankers (54%) garner majority-level “average” marks, while six other occupations receive average ratings from pluralities of Americans ranging from 42% to 50%. These include lawyers, accountants, business executives, clergy, judges and labor union leaders.
  • The public is evenly divided in giving average versus low ratings to advertising practitioners and car salespeople, while far fewer offer high ratings of these professions.
  • A 42% plurality of Americans think journalists have “very low” or “low” ethical standards, 35% rate them as average and 23% as high.
  • At the bottom of the rankings, solid majorities rate the ethics of telemarketers and members of Congress low. Less than 10% rate their ethics highly.

The police earned a 37% ethics rating when first measured in 1977, and they were consistently at or below 50% until 1999. Since then, their ratings have been at the majority level, except for two years — 2014 and the current reading. In 2014, amid concerns about racial bias among police officers, Americans’ rating of the profession fell to 48%. It rebounded in 2015 and remained in majority territory until the current 50% reading.

Based on “very high-high-average” ratings for honesty and ethical standards, police officers were rated more highly than clergy, judges, accountants, labor leaders, bankers, real estate agents journalists, members of Congress, and other professions.

Is Anyone Sober? Under The Influence During Criminal Arrests And Accidents – Here’s The Truth About America



Trust in Law Enforcement-USA Today 

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.

USA Today

Defunding The Police-USA Today

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 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.

USA Today

Fragile Communities

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, (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 face-to-face contact with a police officer in one year. Among people who had face-to-face contact, about nine out of 10 residents felt the police were respectful or acted properly, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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.

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 per 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.


As stated, it’s hard for Americans to give any occupation or issue high marks. Some groups experiencing a history of mistreatment may have issues with law enforcement but they have similar apprehensions about many institutions like businesses, the media, or medical care.

Yes, we within the justice system need to rededicate ourselves to equal and respectful treatment regardless of who we are interacting with. We expect and accept public accountability.

Yes, polling data will differ based on race, age, and political affiliation but regardless of who you are, the majority of all groups view law enforcement as wanted, necessary and respected.

And quite frankly, most polling data on law enforcement is almost embarrassingly high. As one police officer respondent stated, “It’s almost making cops out to be angels.”

Out of 54 million police contacts, only two percent involve the use or threat of force? This third-time replicated finding seems almost too good to be true. About 1% of U.S. residents experienced misconduct during their most recent contact with police? Considering the strained circumstances of many police encounters, is that even possible?

So progressive critics will insist that we have a massive problem with cops being brutal or uncaring. One respondent told me that “Most want to be cops because they want to exert power over the powerless.” There is a Pulitzer Prize-winning daily “news” source focusing on all the misdeeds of law enforcement. The data doesn’t support their views.

Some cops will insist that Americans have turned against them. The data doesn’t support their views.

There comes a point where people need to understand that cops are wanted and respected for all the right reasons based on data. The “defund the police movement” is dead. Stereotyping well over a million police officers and employees is simply childish. It’s impossible for 54 million yearly police-citizen contacts to be flawless.

It’s time for all who misread public opinion to take a step back and understand that, regardless of negative incidents, we in the justice system need the public, and they need and want us. Creating purposeful misconceptions about public support doesn’t help.

There is nothing keeping cops in place beyond public encouragement. If you want safe communities (per the best available data from the Department of Justice), communities need to be supportive.

See More

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.

An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.

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