Many of the findings are unsurprising, if discouraging, to those of us hoping to stop police shootings of blacks and other people of color. Eighty-three percent of officers feel that their job is not well understood by the public, a belief that walls them off from the rest of us. Most white officers (92%) think enough has been done to ensure blacks have equal rights; black officers (29%) disagree. The white population outside law enforcement is more of a mixed bag; "only" 57% think that racial equality has arrived. The black public (12%) overwhelming says "no way."
Some of the other findings Pew reports are less intuitively obvious. Here are some that struck me.
- Protesters aren't the only ones who believe police departments too often keep bad cops on the job. "... most officers are satisfied with their department as a place to work and remain strongly committed to making their agency successful. Still, about half (53%) question whether their department’s disciplinary procedures are fair, and seven-in-ten (72%) say that poorly performing officers are not held accountable."
- "While two-thirds of all police officers say the deaths of blacks at the hands of police are isolated incidents, only about four-in-ten members of the public (39%) share this view while the majority (60%) believes these encounters point to a broader problem between police and blacks." That 60% is higher than I expected; let's keep getting out the stories!
- "... while a majority of Americans (64%) favor a ban on assault-style weapons, a similar share of police officers (67%) say they would oppose such a ban." Have these officers no fear that someone will use these weapons against them? After all they feel misunderstood and under-appreciated.
- There seem to be significant differences between the attitudes and possibly the actions of male and female officers. "A majority of black officers (57%) say [highly publicized fatal encounters between police and blacks] encounters are evidence of a broader problem between police and blacks, a view held by only about a quarter of all white (27%) and Hispanic (26%) officers. Black female officers in particular are more likely to say these incidents signal a more far-reaching concern. Among all sworn officers, 63% of black women say this, compared with 54% of black men. ...
"Most officers say that outside of required training, they have not discharged their service firearm while on duty; 27% say they have done this. Male officers are about three times as likely as female officers to say they have fired their weapon while on duty – 30% of men vs. 11% of women. ..."
- Hardly any cops think well of those of us protesting against excessive use of force by the police, but there are differences among them. "Among black officers, 69% say the protests were sincere efforts to force police accountability – more than double the proportion of whites (27%) who share this view. Female officers, older police and department administrators also are more likely than male officers, younger police and rank-and-file officers to believe protesters genuinely seek police accountability."
- A significantly large proportion of cops seem to shrink from operating as agents of federal immigration authorities. "Officers are divided over whether local police should take an active role (52%) in identifying undocumented immigrants rather than leaving this task mainly to federal authorities (46%)."