Racial differences in police confidence were observed before George Floyd’s death. Are they still present?
A few weeks after the death of George Floyd, protests to call for justice and to support the Black Lives Matter movement have reached the global scale, showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
Witnessing police brutality with their own eyes in Floyd’s murder and even during the protests, the trust of U.S. citizens in the police and law enforcement has greatly plummeted.
A month before Floyd’s death and the protests which began immediately after, a Pew Research Centre survey asked U.S. adults regarding their confidence in police officers to act in the best interests of the public.
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Overall, 78% of the Americans said that they have either “a fair amount” or a “great deal” of confidence in the police. While this figure is considerably high, a huge disparity in confidence among different races has been observed.
A huge share of non-Hispanic whites (84%) and Hispanic adults (74%) expressed at least “a fair amount” of confidence in police officers. However, only 56% of black Americans expressed the same sentiment.
According to Pew Research, this racial disparity in police confidence has been relatively consistent in recent years. This disparity can be explained by the varying experiences of the different racial and ethnic groups when it comes to their interactions with the police.
“Black communities are often over-policed and over-profiled, which can even lead to fatality, as recent cases have shown us,” according to Dr. Michael Lindsey from the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University.
Erosion of trust
In a separate survey, PBS collected a nationally-representative sample of 1,062 U.S. adults, asking each one of them regarding their confidence that the police will treat black and white people equally.
Shown above are the results of the Survey conducted on June 2-3, 2020. Only 63% of the U.S. adults expressed either “a fair amount” or “a great deal” of confidence.
While the trust in the police, on the whole, has declined significantly, this erosion of trust is unevenly distributed.
Among non-Hispanic whites, a majority (42%) expressed “a great deal of trust” in the local police treating the different races equally. However, the majority of Hispanics (36%) only reported “a fair amount” of confidence.
In stark contrast, the majority (48%) black adults have expressed “very little/no confidence at all” that the police would provide equal treatment to blacks and whites.
In light of the crumbling trust to the police, the Minneapolis City Council —the city where Floyd was killed, voted for the disbandment of its police department — investing instead on community-based public safety programmes.
Similarly, protests have been calling to cut police funding, dedicating the money to fuel a systemic change in society instead of allowing police violence to remain entrenched.
Studies have shown that the increased militarisation of the police observed in recent years has only fueled the targeting of black communities.
Racially-biased policing is nearly as old as the U.S. history itself. If we intend to make our communities feel like and become truly safe, we should stop this cycle of repeating mistakes and begin making changes in our system.