How does the public view police performance?

Rich Morin and Renee Stepler of Pew Research Center conducted a survey showing the racial disparities in perceived police performance. The survey was conducted between August 16th  and September 12th of this year via online sources and mailing with 4,538 U.S. adults. The survey results showcased the differences in how blacks and whites view the performance of those in the police force. One of the basic telling results is that around one-third of blacks and three-fourths of whites believe the police are doing a good or excellent job in three categories: Using the right amount of force for each situation, treating racial and ethnic groups equally, and holding officers accountable when misconduct occurs.



















The survey went on to investigate more disparities in viewpoints between white and black individuals perceptions on police. One such result was longing how whites and blacks view the fatal encounters with police: either as isolated incidents or as signs of a broader problem. While 60 percent of those in the survey feel that these are signs of a broader problem, 79 percent of blacks believe it is, compared to a more spilt white group with only 54 percent saying these are signs of a broader problem. Hispanic populations also were asked this question, which approximately 66 percent said these shootings were signs of broader problem.    


While many believe there may be broader problems within police forces, the root causes of it are difficult to pinpoint and even more difficult to fix. Carl Bialik of FiveThirtyEight recently discussed possible causes of these shootings and why there is a disparity in the frequency of police shootings of blacks and whites. Although he, like many other researchers, ran into a data gap. He mentions: “As incomplete as national data is for people killed by police officers — their number and the circumstances of their deaths — the data on people who interact with police officers and aren’t killed is even more limited. The FBI plans to start collecting data on use of force from police departments in January, according to spokesman Stephen Fischer. For now, though, it’s hard to answer basic questions about risk.” This data gap leads to problems in researching this and many other criminal justice topics. Overall the way police performance is viewed is mixed and to actually evaluate  their performance is difficult without proper data collection.




Tyler Aman

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