Survey: Most officers believe high-profile police-involved shootings make their jobs harder

A survey of police officers in America found that 86 percent of them believe high-profile incidents involving officers and black people make police work harder, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday.

The 97-page report is wide-ranging, and analyzes data from a survey that asked a sample of nearly 8,000 officers a multitude of questions concerning their attitudes on race, safety, and other factors facing police. The survey was conducted from May to August of 2016.

“It 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,” reads the report’s opening paragraphs.

Of the officers surveyed, 93 percent said they’ve become more concerned about their safety as a result of the high-profile police shootings of black people. As many as 75 percent said police interactions with black people have gotten more tense, 76 percent said they’ve been more reluctant to use force when it’s appropriate, and 72 percent said they’re less willing to stop people who seem suspicious.

Most of the police surveyed said they’d been thanked for their service in the previous month (79 percent), but most of them also think the public struggles to understand the risks they face on the job (86 percent). When asked, 67 percent of police surveyed reported that they’d been verbally abused in the previous month.

While 58 percent of police surveyed said police work always/often makes them feel proud, 51 percent said it makes them feel frustrated.

Depending on who you ask, views vary on whether fatal police incidents involving black people are isolated, or part of a bigger problem. In the same survey set, 67 percent of police said fatal encounters between police and black people are isolated incidents, and 31 percent said it’s sign of a broader problem. In a survey of the public, conducted from August to September of last year, 60 percent of respondents said the police-black encounters were part of a broader problem, and 39% percent said they were isolated incidents.

The survey suggests white officers are more likely to have been involved in a physical altercation with a suspect than black officers. Of the white officers surveyed, 36 percent said they’d fought with a suspect who was resisting arrest recently, while 20 percent of black officers said the same. White officers also are more likely to have shot their service weapon while on duty — 31 percent of white officers surveyed said they’d fired their gun, versus 21 percent of black officers.

More than half — 56 percent of officers surveyed — said it’s more useful for an officer to be aggressive than courteous in certain areas of the city.

Still, two-thirds of the officers said they favor the use of body cameras.

Most officers surveyed — 86 percent — said their department doesn’t have enough officers to do the job properly in their communities. But overall, police said they’re satisfied with their workplace (74 percent).

There are a quarter of a million sworn law enforcement officers in the United States working in more than 15,000 state and local agencies, according to 2013 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. They work in more than 12,000 local municipal departments, 3,000 sheriff’s departments and 50 state police agencies.

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