Poll: Police Accountability Questioned by Whites, Blacks

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 06:35 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Both whites and blacks question how well police are held accountable in their use of force and treatment of minorities, according to a new USA Today/ Pew Research poll.

By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans said law enforcement nationwide does not do a good job in holding officers accountable for bad behavior, treating racial groups equally, and employing appropriate force.

Blacks and whites differ, however, over police in their own community, the poll found, according to Pew. Seventy-one percent of whites trust local police "a great deal" or "a fair amount" to treat blacks and whites equally. In contrast, 52 percent of blacks hold that view, while some 46 percent say they have "very little" trust in their local police, and 16 percent say they have "just some" trust.

While 17 percent of Republicans thought police did a poor job treating racial groups equally, 47 percent of Democrats held that view, Pew reported.

The issues of police accountability, treatment of minorities, and whether cops in small towns should receive surplus military equipment from the federal government are receiving renewed attention in the aftermath of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Overall, 4 in 10 Americans polled say they have little confidence in police using military equipment appropriately. Among blacks, the figure was 7 in 10. A majority of whites, 60 percent, have a "great" or "fair" amount of confidence in police using such equipment, Pew reported.

In general, 57 percent of Americans believe that blacks and whites get along pretty well, with 12 percent saying very well. Seventy-five percent of whites were positive about race relations. The figure was 64 percent for blacks, and 53 percent for Hispanics, according to Pew.

Younger people, in particular those under 30, tend to be more critical of police performance than those 50 and older. For example, 32 percent of those under 30 thought police did a poor job of protecting people's privacy. Just 22 percent of those between 50 and 64 felt similarly, Pew found.

The poll also found that by a 73 to 22 percent margin blacks approve of the way President Barack Obama deals with race relations while whites disapprove by a 48 to 42 percent margin, USA Today reported.

The national poll was conducted Aug. 20-24 among 1,501 adults and has a margin of error of 3 points.

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