Can You Trust Local Law Enforcement

By Chris Hoenig


Do you think your local law-enforcement agency treats Black people fairly

Your answer to that question likely depends on your race.

A new NBC News/Marist poll found that racial divisions run deep when it comes to the views and trust of local law enforcement. In fact, amongst whites, confidence in local law enforcement appears to have gone up since the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

In the latest poll, 52 percent of whites say they have a “great deal” of confidence that police officers treat everyone the same, regardless of race. That’s higher than in any poll dating back to 1995, when only 29 percent of white Americans had confidence in equal treatment by law-enforcement officers, and 11 points higher than a poll taken as recently as September.

Amongst Black Americans, the 12 percent who said they have confidence in the equal treatment of law-enforcement officers is the lowest since just 10 percent agreed in 1995 and represents a 5 percentage point drop since an August Pew Research Center poll. Eighty percent “strongly agree” that police apply a double-standard based on race.

Only 33 percent of Blacks said they’re confident that local police won’t use excessive force, while that number jumps to 78 percent amongst white respondents.

The decisions by grand juries in Missouri and New York to not indict Brown’s and Garner’s killers has also cut confidence in the legal system in general.

In the latest poll, 70 percent of Blacks said the decisions have decreased their confidence in a fair and just legal system, compared with just 35 percent of whites. Twenty-one percent of whites said their confidence in the legal system had actually increased, a sentiment shared by only 9 percent of Blacks.

The opinion of Black Americans mirrors that of the population at-large when it comes to President Obama’s handling of the grand-jury decisions: 46 percent disapprove, while 35 percent of Blacks approve (30 percent of all Americans approve).

There is one area where white and Black Americans are in agreement: the use of body cameras by police officers. Signaling strong support for President Obama’s $75 million funding request to distribute the devices to law enforcement nationwide, 81 percent of Blacks and 74 percent of whites said officers should wear the cameras to monitor their policing.

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