By Kimberly Arsenault
Contributor, EDM Digest
A recent poll reveals that 93 percent of police officers are increasingly worried for their safety while performing their jobs. The poll was conducted to highlight the ongoing debate of police methods and conduct after the recent deaths of black Americans that have resulted in high profile protests and destructive riots.
Nearly 8,000 police officers participated in the poll, which focused on departments with at least 100 officers, while more than 4,500 adults responded to the survey online and via regular mail. The results portray the disconnect between the public and law enforcement and how recent protests have impacted officer duties and public attitudes.
Gaps Between Public and Law Enforcement Views
Results also revealed that while 86 percent of the public believes they understand the nature, duties, risks, and responsibilities of those serving in law enforcement roles, 83 percent of police officers believe the public does not fully understand all of the risks, duties, and responsibilities shouldered by law enforcement personnel. The poll also suggests that police have become more reluctant to fully perform all of their duties, fearing for their safety, especially since recent protests have escalated tensions between law enforcement officials and black Americans.
On a positive note, the poll also reveals that police officers feel respected by the public, and 7 out of 10 officers surveyed believe some or most residents share a similar view. Similarly, 8 of 10 officers polled were thanked for their service within the last month, yet almost the same number have been verbally abused by a community member.
Results also suggest that officers are both equally proud of their work and frustrated by their job. At least half of the officers polled were skeptical of the disciplinary actions in their departments and if they were fair, and or seven out of 10 police officers noted that there was no accountability for officers who performed poorly.
Equal Rights Issue
Some of the starkest differences came from the answers between white and black police officers regarding equal rights for blacks. Although 92 percent of white officers said the necessary changes have been made to ensure blacks have equal rights with whites in the nation, only 32 percent of black officers agreed.
More concerning might be the public view which considers the death of blacks by police officers to be a symptom of a larger issue between police and blacks - this view is taken by nearly 60 percent of the public. This was in stark contrast to answers from police. The poll found that a majority of police officers, two-thirds of those polled, believe these deaths are isolated incidents.
Still, 73 percent of police officers polled also believe that their use-of-force guidelines and restrictions are appropriate, yet only 51 percent indicate the usefulness of these same guidelines and restrictions when confronted by situations that may require force.
Police Body Cameras
The poll shows some similar views between the public and police regarding body cameras. The majority of both largely agree that body cameras are effective tools and should be worn by police officers. Views on the legalization of marijuana were also very similar, although the public was more in favor of relaxing the laws than police (68 percent vs 84 percent).
However, most troubling for first responders might be that the poll revealed a significant concern held by the vast majority of police officers - 86 percent of those polled agreed that adequate community policing was compromised due to a shortage of police officers. The number increased to 95 percent among those working in larger police agencies, with 79 percent of respondents indicating shortages among smaller agencies. The poll also showed that only 39 percent of all police officers agreed they had received adequate training to perform their job, while only 37 percent say communication regarding job responsibilities and duties has been clear.