Three in four Americans have a “great deal” of respect for their local law enforcement, according to a Gallup poll, marking the highest rate of community approval in nearly 50 years.
The number has increased by 12 points since last year, with 17 percent saying they have “some” respect for police and only 7 percent saying they have “hardly any.” That jump, which comes at a time when tensions between minorities and police officers have escalated, also follows an outpouring of support for police after the high-profile slayings of officers in Dallas and Louisiana over the summer.
“Some of it is the rallying support of law enforcement in the wake of the shootings,” Laurie Robinson, a criminology professor at George Mason University who co-chaired President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, told The Wall Street Journal. “The optimist in me thinks it’s more than just a knee-jerk rallying and really has to do with reflection on what the role of police should be and the complex challenges they face.”
Gallup has posed the question nine times since 1965. Only once, in 1967, did respondents have a higher approval of police with 77 percent saying they had a “great deal” of respect for officers. Still, many point to the fracturing relationship between police officers and the predominately black communities they serve, saying there’s more work to be done to create an equitable criminal justice that protects everyone.
While the poll found some disparities among racial groups, both whites and nonwhites had increased respect when compared to the year prior. Eighty percent of white respondents said they had a “great deal” of respect for law enforcement, a number up 11 percent from 2015, while 67 percent of nonwhites gave the same answer, increasing from 53 percent the year before.
A separate Gallup poll conducted earlier this year found that respondents' confidence in their police also increased by 4 percent in a single year, climbing from a 22-year low of 52 percent to 56 percent who had “quite a lot” of confidence in law enforcement. That confidence hit a two-decade low in 2015 after several police officers across the country fatally shot unarmed black men, spurring racial protests across the nation and calling on many departments to rethink how racial profiling may play a role in their communities.
Some departments, lincluding the one in Baton Rouge, La., have rolled out coalitions and programs that focus on repairing relations through community policing.
“Policemen are going to have to get out of their cars, walk the street, and have a conversation with the black guy on the corner – the black guy who has his pants hanging down – and get to know him as an individual, not as a stereotype,” Rev. Lee Wesley, of the Community Bible Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, previously told The Christian Science Monitor when speaking on behalf of the Baton Rouge Together coalition. “Until we get those types of relationships going, we’re never going to get our community moving forward.”