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U.S. Police Say Black Killings, Protests Raised Tensions: Survey

Police killings of several unarmed Black men in 2014 led to nationwide protests and the rise of Black Lives Matter.

A Dallas police sergeant wears a mourning band and flower on his badge during a prayer vigil, one day after a lone gunman ambushed and killed five police officers at a protest decrying police shootings of black men, in Dallas, Texas, July 8, 2016. / REUTERS

(Reuters) — Three quarters of American police officers said their interactions with Black people have become more tense following police killings of unarmed Black men and waves of protests that followed, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center survey found a widespread feeling among police that the general public misunderstood them and the public outcry over the deaths in recent years was motivated by anti-police bias rather than a will to hold police accountable.

Police killings of several unarmed Black men in 2014 led to nationwide protests and the rise of the grassroots movement known as Black Lives Matter.

Supporters of the movement, including some Democrats, have said it shines a light on a previously overlooked problem of excessive use of force against Blacks by police. Critics, including President-elect Donald Trump and other Republicans, have criticized Black Lives Matter as unfairly maligning police doing a dangerous job.

“Within America’s police and sheriff’s departments, the survey finds that the ramifications of these deadly encounters have been less visible than the public protests, but no less profound,” the researchers wrote in a report accompanying the survey results.

Seventy-five percent of officers told Pew their interactions with Black people had become more tense in the wake of high-profile police killings of Blacks and the protests they generated. Two-thirds of officers said the protests were motivated “a great deal” by a general bias toward police.

Two-thirds of officers saw the killings of unarmed Black men as isolated incidents rather than a sign of a broader problem. This was in marked contrast to the sentiment of the general public, 60 percent of whom said in a separate Pew survey the killings pointed to a broader systemic problem.

More than 90 percent of American police officers said they worried more about their safety because of the protests. About three quarters said they or their colleagues were less willing to stop and question people who seemed suspicious or to use force even when appropriate.

Majorities of police officers and the general public supported the wider use of body cameras worn by officers to record interactions, at 66 percent and 93 percent respectively.

Pew based its findings on online surveys with 7,917 officers from 54 police and sheriff’s departments between May 19 and August 14 last year. There is no single margin of error for the results because of the complex, multi-stage way Pew arrived at its sample of police officers, Pew said.

2 comments


  • It appears that the police are out of touch with the general public in their attitudes towards these shootings.

  • Charity Dell

    GRANNYBUNNY–It is inevitable that police will find “more tension” with of color. The irony of this is the CLASSIC DENIAL of many police that anything is “wrong.” They persist in blaming victims for the problems law enformcement causes. They WILL NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THERE IS SUCH A THING AS RACIST COPS WITH RACIST MODUS OPERANDI. Unlike most of our Euro-American counterparts, we typically feel nervous ANY time we have to interact with law enforcement officers who do not hail from our ethnicity.

    If we are stopped even for non-criminal traffic violations (speeding, making a wrong turn from a lane, etc.), we have
    but a few seconds to conduct our own psychological assessment of the law enforcement official, and then formulate
    a strategy based upon that assessment, IN ORDER TO SURVIVE THE ENCOUNTER AND ENSURE THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME. Our first part of the “assessment” is actually our knowledge that most law enforcement is taught to see anyone
    of color as “the enemy”, regardless of our gender, religion, dress, socioeconomic station in life, etc. This foreknowledge
    enables us to SURVIVE the encounter, provided we can perform the assessment quickly enough and then COMPENSATE
    for any difficulties we face in the officer-citizen interaction. Unfortunately, if an officer is DETERMINED TO ARREST
    A CITIZEN OF COLOR, no strategy may be enough to stave off the inevitable.

    Whenever we hear those dreaded words: “Step out of the car!” WE KNOW WE ARE JUST AS LIKELY TO BE SHOT
    AT POINT-BLANK RANGE AS WE ARE TO BE “ARRESTED.” We know that our vehicle will be confiscated and we
    are NOT GOING TO RETURN TO OUR HOME ANY TIME SOON. All of the classic survival strategies–talking calmly,
    following instructions to the letter; offering no resistance; complying with requests to show documents; etc., ARE USELESS
    IF THE OFFICER WANTS THE CITIZEN TO VACATE THE CAR. From the moment we “step outside the vehicle”, WE
    KNOW WE HAVE A 98% CHANCE OF BEING KILLED. We can be shot in the car, on the ground, in handcuffs, in the back,
    in the chest, and MULTIPLE TIMES.

    That’s why there is “tension” and there will continue to be “tension” between cops and people of color.

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