Are you a typical US cop?
Measure against 8,000 of your peers
from www.forcescience.org News #329
24 Jan 17
How typical are your opinions and actions on the job compared to other American LEOs?
• Do you believe that protests over officers shooting blacks are motivated primarily by anti-police bias?
• In light of recent high-profile incidents, are you more reluctant to use appropriate force or to stop and question people who seem suspicious?
• Do you agree that in certain areas of your community “it is more useful for officers to be aggressive than to be courteous?”
• Does your work often make you feel angry or frustrated?
• Have you had at least four hours of scenario-based firearms training or instruction in nonlethal control methods in the last year?
• Are you confident in your department’s disciplinary process, and do you find its force guidelines useful in real confrontations?
• Do residents of the areas you patrol generally share your personal values?
• Does the public really understand the risks and challenges of policing the streets?
These are but a few of the topics explored in a new groundbreaking survey of law enforcement personnel conducted for the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan “fact tank” in Washington, DC, that collects and disperses information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends.
In a project called “Behind the Badge,” launched by Pew some nine months ago, the experiences and opinions of a nationwide, representative sampling of nearly 8,000 officers were sought on critical issues in the post-Ferguson world of policing.
The Center offers its findings without judgment or recommendations. It’s goal, according to Pew spokesmen, was simply to discover prevailing attitudes regarding recent events, key factors, and professional concerns, as revealed in “the most wide-ranging survey of police officers ever attempted.”
The actual polling was administered by the National Police Research Platform, a consortium of academics and police professionals who “seek to advance the science and practice” of US law enforcement. Through anonymous online questionnaires, the group sampled 7,917 officers from a cross-section of 43 municipal agencies and 11 sheriff’s departments with at least 100 full-time sworn LEOs.
Click here to access the full, 96-page report of findings free of charge.
Here are some of the highlights. How closely do they jibe with your views and experiences?
PULLING BACK. Whether working in “a quiet suburb or bustling metropolis,” more than eight in 10 officers queried say their job is harder now “as a consequence of recent high-profile fatal incidents involving blacks and police,” Pew reports. And they’re pulling back on their efforts as a result.
Over half (54%) of officers in departments with fewer than 300 sworn and 86% of those in agencies of 2,600 or more say fellow officers “have become less willing to stop and question people who seem suspicious.”
In larger departments, 85% of officers say their peers are “more reluctant to use force to control a suspect even when it is appropriate,” with six in 10 on smaller departments agreeing that’s the case.
The majority of officers (87% in the largest departments, 61% in smaller ones) say that “police interactions with blacks have become more tense.” Roughly nine out of 10 in departments of all sizes “have become more concerned about their safety,” with more than 40% feeling “serious” concern for danger “often” or “nearly always.”
PROTESTS. Most officers are “deeply skeptical of the motives of demonstrators” who protest police shootings, Pew reports. Over 90% believe that “long-standing bias against police” is at least “some” or “a great deal” of the motivation behind demonstrations.
The minority of officers who think protests are “sincere efforts to force police accountability” are more likely to be black, female, older, or in administrative assignments.
Over two-thirds of officers “characterize the fatal encounters that prompted the demonstrations as isolated incidents and not signs of broader problems between police and the black community,” the survey finds. “This stands in sharp contrast with the assessment of the general public.” A separate poll shows that 60% of US adults believe “these incidents are symptoms of a deeper problem.”
As to racial matters in general, “virtually all white officers (92%) but only 29% of their black colleagues say that the country has made the changes needed to assure equal rights for blacks.” More than half the white adult population as a whole agrees with the majority of black officers that “more changes are needed.”
COMMUNITY COMPATIBILITY. “[R]ather than viewing the neighborhoods where they work as hostile territories, about seven in 10 officers say that some or most of the residents there share their personal values and beliefs,” the Pew canvas finds. However, that leaves some 30% who don’t feel that world-view cohesion, a disconnect especially noticeable in larger departments.
A significant majority of officers (about 80%) say “they have been thanked for their service” by a civilian in the last month, but about two-thirds say they have been abused verbally in that same period. Those who’ve experienced abuse are more likely to be white, Hispanic, and/or male. Some 75% of younger officers report verbal abuse, compared to about 60% of colleagues over 44 years old.
“[P]olice and the public often see the world in very different ways,” Pew notes. “When both groups are asked whether the public understands the risks and challenges of police work,” 83% of the public (in a separate survey) say they do, while “86% of police say they don’t — the single largest disparity measured in these surveys.”
Also the public is significantly more likely than police to favor a ban on assault-style weapons (64% vs. 32%), to want more relaxed marijuana laws (84% vs. 68%), and to support the use of body cameras (93% vs. 66%).