Pew: 86% of police officers say high-profile killings make their jobs tougher

By Allen Cone   |   Jan. 11, 2017 at 9:47 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The vast majority of police officers believe deaths of black Americans by police -- though isolated -- have made their jobs more difficult, according to a new Pew Research survey released Wednesday.

Pew interviewed 7,917 law enforcement officers in departments with at least 100 officers. Eighty-six percent said the high-profile killings have made their jobs tougher. Only 12 percent said there is no difference.

Of those interviewed, 93 percent said they're now more concerned about their safety and 76 percent said their colleagues are more reluctant to use force when appropriate.

Seventy-two percent said they are reluctant to stop and question those who seem suspicious. And 75 percent said their interactions with blacks are now more intense.

The interviews came from 54 police and sheriff's departments across the United States between May 19 and Aug. 14, 2016. The National Police Research Platform conducted the study.

The survey, the report notes, "comes at a crisis point in America's relationship with the men and women who enforce its laws, precipitated by a series of deaths of black Americans during encounters with the police that have energized a vigorous national debate over police conduct and methods."

Pew claims this is one of the largest surveys ever conducted with a nationally representative sample of police officers.

"The survey provides a unique window into how police officers see their role in the community, how they assess the dangers of the job and what they encounter on a day-to-day basis," the researchers wrote in a report. "It also gives a glimpse into the psychology of policing and the way in which officers approach the moral and ethical challenges of the job."

The deaths of black Americans at the hands of police are isolated instances, according to 67 percent of the officers interviewed. Broken down by race, 72 percent of white officers say they are isolated compared with 43 percent of black officers.

Few officers -- just 14 percent -- told Pew they believe the public understands the risks and challenges of policing.

In a Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey of 4,538 U.S. adults taken in August and September, 83 percent of respondents said they think they understand the risks and challenges that police face.

A smaller majority of officers in the new Pew survey -- 58 percent -- say the work they do makes them proud, compared with 51 percent who said it often makes them feel frustrated.

These views are affected by interaction with the public. Seventy-nine percent of officers said they have been thanked by a community member for their service in the past month but 67 percent say they have been verbally abused. A total of 55 percent say they have experienced both situations.

Pew said because of the complex design of this survey, a single margin of sampling error was not available.

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