Two thirds of police officers think the high-profile fatal encounters between law enforcement and African Americans are isolated incidents and the protests that followed stem from an anti-police bias, a new survey has found.
The difference in perception between police and the public is one of the observations in a new Pew Research Center poll, released Wednesday.
The poll surveyed nearly 8,000 officers on race relations, morale and reform — the first nationally representative survey since protests over fatal shootings sparked a national conversation on police reform. It found that a majority of officers are now hesitant to stop and question suspects and the tense atmosphere has made their jobs more difficult. And it found that black and white officers have a different take on how good community relations are.
Here are some of the key findings:
Police say fatal encounters between officers and African-Americans have made their jobs harder
Seventy-two percent say their colleagues are now more hesitant to stop and question suspicious individuals. Eighty-six percent say police work is more difficult because of the high-profile incidents. Simultaneously, fatal attacks against officers have increased, causing fear, the report said. About nine-in-10 officers say colleagues now worry more about safety, a level of concern that existed even before fatal shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in July. When it comes to morale, 58% of officers say police work makes them feel proud, while 51% say it often makes them feel frustrated. In the past month, 79% of officers say they were thanked for their service and 67% say they were verbally abused.
Police and the public differ over whether the fatal encounters point to a broader problem
Two-thirds of officers, 67%, say the highly publicized fatal encounters between officers and African-Americans are isolated, while a third say they are indicative of a larger problem. In the separate Pew survey, 60% of adults say the incidents illustrate a broader problem.
More than half say protests over fatal encounters with African-Americans are motivated by anti-police bias
Officers are skeptical about the motives of protesters. Nearly all officers say long-standing anti-police bias is largely the motivation — 68% — or some of the motivation — 24% — for the protests. In contrast, 35% of officers say in a separate question that a true desire to hold them accountable is at least some of the motivation behind protests.
Black officers are less positive than Hispanic or white officers about police-minority relations
A majority of officers say police have excellent or good relationships with whites, Hispanics and Asians; 56% of them feel the same way about African-American communities. But the perception varies by the race and ethnicity of the officer. Six-in-10 white and Hispanic officers say the relationship with black communities is excellent or good; a third of black officers feel the same way. But twice as many black officers characterize the relationship as fair or poor.