Survey Finds Racial Gaps in Perception of Police Departments

Most Americans give police departments relatively low marks for holding officers accountable for misconduct and using the appropriate amount of force, a (14 pages, PDF) by the and finds.

Conducted between August 20 and August 11 as tensions ran high over the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teen in Ferguson, Missouri, the survey of 1,501 adults found large racial gaps in Americans' views of police accountability and performance. A majority of the African Americans surveyed, for example, said police departments do a poor job of holding officers accountable for misconduct (70 percent), of treating racial and ethnic groups equally (70 percent), and of using the appropriate amount of force in specific situations (57 percent) — compared with 27 percent, 25 percent, and 23 percent of white Americans.

The survey also found that 46 percent of African American respondents said they had "very little" confidence that local police will treat whites and black equally — up from the 34 percent registered in a November 2009 Pew poll. In addition, the share of African Americans with a positive view of relations between the races has fallen from 76 percent to 64 percent, compared with a smaller decline (from 80 percent to 75 percent) among whites.

While the poll found little change since 2009 in the public's confidence in local police departments to do a good job of enforcing the law, survey respondents expressed concern over police departments' use of military equipment and weaponry, with 44 percent — and 68 percent of African Americans — saying they had little or no confidence in the ability of police departments to use this type of equipment wisely.

"." Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Report 08/25/2014.