Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Police, blacks and whites, 1981-2000

A few days ago, I saw an article that referred to a survey question on "confidence in police officers in your community to treat blacks and whites equally."  That question has been asked seven times starting in 1995, most recently in December 2014.  Among whites, confidence rose substantially between the last two times it was asked, September and December 2014, and the level of confidence in December 2014 was the highest ever.  
This led me to look for other questions on the subject--specifically, for questions about police in the country as a whole rather than your own community.  The good news is that there are some, and that they go back to 1981.  The bad news is that they stop at 2000.  The two questions that were asked multiple times:  [agree or disagree that] "these days police in most cities treat blacks as fairly as the treat whites" and "do you think the police in most big cities are generally tougher on whites than on blacks, or tougher on blacks than on whites, or do the police treat them both the same?"  I summarize the results as percent favorable (agree or treat both the same) minus unfavorable.  (The percent saying they were tougher on whites ranged from 0 to 2--I combined them with treat both the same).  

Between 1981 and 2000, there was a substantial move towards seeing treatment as less fair.  The figures are for blacks and whites combined, but given that blacks are only about 12 percent of the population, there must have been a substantial move in this direction among whites.  

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