A Gallup poll released Monday shows 76 percent of Americans “have a great deal of respect” for the police — just one point behind the question’s 1968 record high of 77 percent.
Justin McCarthy, a Gallup analyst, says respect for law enforcement surged 12 percent over 2015, despite ongoing civil unrest over police-involved shootings of unarmed civilians that have spawned violent protests and retaliatory attacks on law enforcement across the country.
“The sharp increase over the past year in professed respect for local law enforcement comes as many police say they feel they are on the defensive — both politically and for their lives while they are on duty — amid heated national discussions on police brutality and shootings,” McCarthy says in an analysis published Monday.
McCarthy notes the 2015 murder of New York City police officer in Harlem, which prompted then-Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to declare “the U.S. has fostered ‘an anti-police attitude that has grown’ and that the national dialogue on police-community relations needs to discourage individuals who ‘exhibit anti-police behavior or attitudes.’”
Bratton isn’t the only law enforcement official to express concerns about growing hatred toward police officers.
Last month, Dallas Police Sgt. Demetrick Pennie filed suit in federal court against prominent black rights activists, Democratic politicians and others for inciting violence against law enforcement and igniting a “race war.”
Pennie filed the suit in the wake of the July 7 sniper attack against 12 Dallas police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest that left five dead and seven wounded. The lone gunman, during a three-hour police standoff, told negotiators he targeted white officers in retaliation for the string of recent police killings of unarmed black men in Minnesota, Louisiana and elsewhere across the country.
In May, Louisiana became the first state in the country to extend hate-crime protections to law enforcement and first responders. Other states, McCarthy said, are considering similar bills.
“It’s unclear whether the spike in respect for police will have staying power or if it reflects mostly a reaction to the retaliatory killings against police officers last summer,” he said.
Gallup surveyed 1,017 adults aged 18 and older during phone interviews conducted Oct. 5-9, with a 4 percent margin of error. Gallup selects landlines and cellphones using random-digit-dial methods. It has asked this particular question nine times since 1965.