American support for police rebounds.
Social media is the reason why.
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Graduate-Johns Hopkins University.
Per Gallup, American respect for law enforcement reached its highest level since 1967 (edited data from Gallup follows)
Three in four Americans (76%) say they have “a great deal” of respect for the police in their area, up 12 percentage points from last year.
In addition to the large majority of Americans expressing “a great deal” of respect for their local police, 17% say they have “some” respect while 7% say they have “hardly any.”
Gallup has asked this question nine times since 1965. The percentage who say they respect the police is significantly higher now than in any measurement taken since the 1990s and is just one point below the high of 77% recorded in 1967.
The latest figures, from Gallup’s Oct. 5-9, 2016 annual poll on crime, show Americans’ respect for police increased as the number of on-duty police officers who were shot and killed was on the rise.
Americans’ confidence in police has also increased after falling to a 22-year low in 2015 and recovering in this year’s poll. The latter was conducted in early June, before police officers were shot and killed in separate incidents in Texas and Louisiana.
Despite the flaring of racial tensions after these incidents, respect for local police has increased among both whites and nonwhites.
Four in five whites (80%) say they have a great deal of respect for police in their area, up 11 points from last year. Meanwhile, two in three nonwhites (67%) report having the same level of respect, an increase of 14 points from last year.
Never Seen Anything Like It
It’s not my intention to go over all the negatives during the last two years. Law enforcement has been battered by demonstrations regarding police shootings, and an endless list of negative news regarding everything conceivable.
I spent thirty-five years in public affairs for law enforcement and correctional agencies and I have never seen anything like it. There are times when incidents become issues, and the negative news coverage has been unrelenting.
The media started covering disputes and cases they left alone before all this started. They piled on; they ran up the score.
Yep, some of it has been self-inflicted, and some of the adverse press coverage was deserved. You just can’t shoot a person fleeing a traffic stop multiple times in the back without people questioning the training and psychological status of cops.
The Baltimore Effect
But there is a point where people understood that cops are truly needed in our lives. People have heard or read accounts where cops are no longer were as aggressive as they once were and crime started rising (per the Director of the FBI).
Some call this the Ferguson effect where the “Hands up-don’t shoot narrative was completely discredited, but I believe that the indictments of six police officers in Baltimore for the death of Freddie Gray that was the breaking point. All the Baltimore officers were either found not guilty (it started with a hung jury) or the charges were dropped.
There wasn’t a cop in America who didn’t question the viability of his job after Baltimore. There wasn’t a cop who didn’t say to herself; if they can indict six cops for simply doing their jobs, they can indict me for doing mine. Every household in the country started asking their officer husbands or wives, “Is being a cop really worth it?”
The News Remains Negative
Regardless as to the cases where police action was unjustifiable, and notwithstanding our very troubled history with African Americans and others, we understand that the vast majority of cops are good and decent human beings.
Stories from the media about police agencies unable to fill their ranks because of lack of recruits became common.
Police officers murdered in Dallas and other cities took their toll.
Homicides and violent crime continue to go up in many (not all) cities.
The news continues to be mostly negative. The narrative from the mainstream media hasn’t changed. So what happened?
So What Happened?
If you do what I do (manage and write articles for Crime in America.Net) you read a lot of social media sites pertaining to cops.
I read the anguish, the anger, and the frustration of a class of people labeled unjustifiably. Everyone seemed to be painting law enforcement with a broad brush, using the same principals as racism or other forms of bigotry.
The unfair labeling outraged cops, they felt betrayed by the America public. They felt that the narratives of Ferguson and Baltimore were beyond wrong. They felt that they couldn’t do anything right.
And Then Social Media Kicked In
Americans understand injustice when they see it. Americans understand the reasons why.
Americans took a look at the increasing homicides and violent in many cities and said to themselves, “Cops are backing off-I guess it’s time to reevaluate.”
Americans asked themselves, if cops go, who is there to protect my family and me?
Americans heard the litany of “facts” from Ferguson and Baltimore and other cities and started to cry foul.
And then they turned to social media.
It started out as a dribble. Remember that the media narrative continued to be negative, and it remains that way today. Nevertheless, people began to understand that much was at stake, especially their safety.
The social media posts on Facebook and related entities started to become a flood. People believed that there was basic unfairness as to the facts, the narrative, the media coverage and public opinion.
“Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense.”… “We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less. “The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.” Theodore Roosevelt
People began to understand that cops, as imperfect as they are (everyone has a story of being mishandled by a cop) are needed.
Everyone understands that most cops are decent people who occasionally do the wrong things.
Social media observations questioning the facts of cases and the ongoing narrative then became a flood.
I also viewed the social media sites of detractors; there are groups dedicated to questioning not just the policies of law enforcement, but police agencies as they currently exist, and even there I saw conversations questioning extreme views.
It’s Not a Victory
People in law enforcement fully understand that they have a long way to go to win back all Americans, and the task will be triply hard with minorities. Cops get it better than anyone. Now is the time to understand the imperfections and rededicate ourselves to doing better. We must be the protectors of all Americans.
But without the support of the America people, I’m not sure if cops are willing to be personally involved in change.
We were at the tipping point and Americans came to their senses.
Now it’s up to all in the justice system to rededicate ourselves to fundamental civility, fairness, and justice for all.
We regained support. Now; let’s use it for good.
Crime in America at http://crimeinamerica.net
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