Last year American confidence in their police was the lowest it had been in 22 years. But according to a survey released by Gallup on Tuesday, some Americans are re-establishing trust in law enforcement: 56 percent of people polled were “confident” in the police, up four points from 2015.
The survey data was taken from a random sample of 1,027 adults who spoke to pollsters over the phone this month. A difference in race and political beliefs did split opinion: This year 62 percent of whites were confident in American police forces, compared to 39 percent of nonwhites. Meanwhile, Democrats’ confidence rose from 41 percent to 48 percent. Republican’s confidence remained at 68 percent from 2015.
The pollsters believe that the American confidence in their police was shaken in 2015 by the highly publicized incidences of police brutality in cities like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. Comparatively, the last time the confidence level was at 52 percent was in 1993 — one year after the Los Angeles riots, a situation ignited by the acquittal of the four LAPD officers accused of beating black American Rodney King.
“A slim majority of Americans have confidence in the police as an institution, and that confidence level has risen modestly since last year’s low point, which most likely reflected the visibility of police incidents involving black citizens,” writes the authors behind the Gallup survey.
This doesn’t mean the police issues that plagued 2015 aren’t happening in 2016; they may just be less publicized. According to the Guardian’s “Counted” project, 484 Americans have been killed by police in 2016 and it is only June. 965 individuals were fatally shot in 2015. Meanwhile, black Americans continue to be incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites.
While American confidence in their police forces has risen — and let’s hope that is because of the reforms taking place across stations and not because of increased apathy — it’s integral that a better opinion of police doesn’t come with a lessened level of inquiry.
“In the past, an officer’s word was not challenged,” Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson told The Washington Post. “If anything has shifted this year , it’s that. They are facing the kind of scrutiny the rest of us face when we kill someone.”