Police Defend Against Criticism For Killing African-Americans

By and large, blacks and whites in the United States trust their local and state police officers differently.

But police are pushing back against the criticism.

According to a Pew Research Center survey released this week, blacks are far less likely to feel confident in their local police.

Surveying 4,538 adults, 42% of white people said they have “a lot” of confidence in their local police, while only 14% of black people have the same level of confidence. 6% of whites said they have “no confidence” in their local police, while 4x as many (24%) blacks said they have “no confidence”.

And according to the same survey, 60% of Americans believe the rate at which police shoot and kill black people in this country is a sign of a bigger issue between African-Americans and police.

However, according to The Guardian’s “Counted” report, of the 804 people killed by police in 2016, only 25% were black, 16% were Hispanic, and 49% were white.

Local community leaders and some politicians have recently expressed strong disapproval towards police officers in general after the police shootings of black men in Charlotte, NC, Tulsa, OK, and El Cajon, CA.

The rise of the “Blue Lives Matter” movement – a response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement – and the intense scrutiny by the media and these community leaders has been accompanied by an increase of officers and local police unions applying for insurance for legal costs in case they are criminally charged for shooting in the line of duty.

And some police union officials have called for new laws that may offer extra protection for police officers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, police are defending their behavior as a whole.

“William Lansdowne, a former police chief in San Diego and San Jose, Calif., said he wasn’t surprised that people see the shootings as a sign of a larger problem. ‘The videos that we have are giving us a different view of what is happening,” said Mr. Lansdowne, who now works for a federal violence-reduction program. “We need to strongly look at what’s going on in the videos and make some changes to training.”

 

“Mr. Lansdowne said that police need to change, but that the community must work with police as well.

 

“Even in states like North Carolina, where police have tended to enjoy the benefit of the doubt, police today face questions that put them on the defensive. After the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Sept. 20, there were numerous calls for the resignation of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney.

 

“Chief Putney has said his officers only shot Mr. Scott after he repeatedly ignored commands to drop a gun he was holding. Attorneys for Mr. Scott’s family say he wasn’t holding a gun—and it is unclear from video released by the police department whether Mr. Scott was holding anything.

 

“Chief Putney said police expect scrutiny, but also expect to be allowed the discretion to do their jobs. “The fear of unrest leads to prosecution where it may not be warranted,” said Steve James, president of trustees for the Fraternal Order of Police Legal Defense Plan, referring to protests of recent fatal police shootings of black men. Mr. James said the plan has enrolled 3,500 new members this year and is now approaching 55,000 members.

 

“Some police groups also are renewing their push for a Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, and touting a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ law in effect in Louisiana and proposed in a dozen other states that make attacks on police hate crimes.”

The Pew Research Center’s survey on confidence in law enforcement was released shortly after police shot and killed African-American Keith Lamont Scott on September 20th in Charlotte, NC. Some people in North Carolina also called for the resignation of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief, Kerr Putney.

The surrounding debate was brought to the forefront of American news by the infamous shooting and killing of Michael Brown by 28 year-old, white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, as well as the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York City in July 2014.

And the issue some see as a larger problem between blacks and police has remained a topic of discussion with more controversial deaths of black men this summer, including Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, and Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota in July 2016.

The same week Sterling and Castile were killed, five police officers were killed and nine were injured in Dallas, TX, by Micah Xavier Johnson during a “Black Lives Matter” protest.