Both whites and blacks don’t think police departments do enough to hold cops accountable for misconduct, according to a new poll released this week.
The Pew Research Center/USA Today poll, however, found a significant racial divide: 72 percent of whites compared with 36 percent of blacks said they have a fair amount of confidence in local cops to treat blacks and whites equally, and 74 percent of whites versus 36 percent of blacks have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in police officers to refrain from using excessive force on suspects.
The poll, conducted August 20-24, comes amid heightened tension locally and nationally regarding the relationship between the police and black communities after an NYPD officer was seen on video wrapping a Staten Island man in a prohibited chokehold, which caused his death (Eric Garner’s various maladies were contributing factors in his death), and the shooting in Ferguson, Mo. in which an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer. Unlike the incident involving the NYPD officer, video documenting Michael Brown’s encounter with the Ferguson police officer on August 9 has yet to emerge, and there have been conflicting statements from witnesses who say they saw the fatal shooting unfold.
Neither officer has been charged, but grand juries empanelled in both Staten Island and Ferguson will decide if either officer should be prosecuted.
According to the poll, 70 percent of blacks say police departments around the country do a poor job holding officers accountable for misconduct. Whites aren’t giving police positives grades in that category, either: Only 37 percent said police departments do an excellent or good job holding cops accountable for misconduct.
“The survey finds little change since 2009 in public confidence in local police departments to do a good job enforcing the law, to avoid using excessive force against suspects and to treat blacks and whites equally,” according to Pew Research Center. “Currently, 39 percent say they have a great deal of confidence in police officers locally to do a good job enforcing the law; 36 percent say they have a fair amount of confidence.”
“The black man should be respected just as much as the white man in this country,” he said, adding that, too often, blacks are treated differently than whites in communities like Freeport. “This is 2014 not the 1950s or 1960s.”
Mayers is not confident that protests in Ferguson will translate to better relations with police.
“It might, but I doubt it very much,” he said, referencing the beating of Rodney King in California and comments made by a St. Louis police officer who was seen on video bragging about killing people and calling President Obama an “illegal alien.” He was suspended after the video became public.
Nassau Police Benevolent Association President James Carver told the Press that the “overwhelming majority of police officers here are of great conduct and the time that there are discipline, it’s mostly internal stuff,” not criminal.
As for the incident involving Brown and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, Carver said the public should wait for all the facts to emerge.
In June, a Nassau police officer was allegedly caught on video beating a 20-year-old man thought to be in possession of drugs. Prosecutors later dropped all charges against Kyle Howell and indicted the officer, Vincent LoGiudice, on assault charges.
Carver criticized prosecutors and said the grand jury wasn’t given all the facts.
“I believe that the police officers…are entitled to a fair investigation, not a rush to judgement, and not a political investigation,” he said. “Our job is a tough job, we make split-second decisions that will be Monday-morning quarterbacked forever.”
“A lot of it is driven by the media sensationalizing what’s going on and trying to get higher ratings than the next guys,” he added.
Another issue that has arisen from the Ferguson protests has been the militarization nationwide of police departments, which have been outfitted with military gear and weapons with the help of the Department of Defense.
“The public has concerns over police departments’ use of military equipment and weaponry,” the Pew Research Center poll found. Fifty-four percent of Americans polled said they have a “great deal or fair amount” of confidence in police departments to appropriately use equipment and weapons compared with 44 percent who disagreed.
Despite differing views when it comes to police, 64 percent of blacks and three-quarters of whites said the two races get along pretty well.
The poll also found that Democrats are much more critical of police than Republicans.