According to a new Gallup poll, released Monday, respect for police officers is as at almost a record high nationwide.
Of the 1,017 adults Gallup reached by phone, 76% reported having "great respect" for local police officers, a 12% surge from 2015's numbers. What's more, that figure is just one point off from 1967's all-time high of 77% since polling began in 1965.
That respect for police has reached a high level across the board, at least by Gallup's count, might surprise civilians and officers alike, given that tensionsbetween the two groups are running high.
If you're living in the world I'm living in, this reads as something out of 'Black Mirror.' It just doesn't make sense. I went ahead and looked up some other polling about this issue and Gallup's results bear it. Nationwide, respect for the police is at an all-time high. Of course, not among POC, although when separating whites from the rest of the population, people of color still have 67% who claim they highly respect the police.
As of this writing, according to the tracker at the Washington Post, 783 people have been killed by the police in America (likely higher by the time you read this.) It's an outrageous number until you start to pull back some. There are approx. 314 million people in the U.S. There are approx. 900,000 sworn police officers in the country.
1.3 million people died in 2016 from car accidents.
39,000 died from accidental poisoning.
32,000 people died from falling off of things.
Approx. 11,000 gun murders.
In the light of all of that, 783 seems pretty low considering that the public outcry and viral videos of obvious injustices and police murders of black men and women comprise a huge amount of the social media we consume daily. One would think, given the obvious horrors of systemic racism and police brutality on display, that number would be much higher. At least as high as people falling off of things, right? 783 is 783 too many but an epidemic of racist violence it is not.
This is the positive benefit of a fully democratized social media platform available to everyone. On Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, etc. everyone has the ability to voice an opinion, to make a call to arms, to organize a protest. Change in this country comes both slowly and at the behest of the vast middle of ideologies - the Far Left and Right have a voice but it is up to those segments to convince the rest to move in their direction. With the internet, they have more impact and their voices are more prevalent.
A negative becomes revealed as we see that this impact in social media does not necessarily reach the Vast Middle given that at least half the country are not living in major urban areas. Looking even further into the numbers, the majority of police shootings of POC occur in cities rather than the center of the country. In spite of the injustice of police killing POC, the stake isn't as high in areas where there are fewer of these instances.
All this is not to say that the police do not deserve the respect that 76% of the people polled admit to. Numbers matter and even if every death attributed to police was the result of a brutal racist thug wearing a uniform, it still leaves 899,000 officers nationwide serving the public in honorable ways.
What this means, I believe, is that those who believe that action must be taken to prevent the indiscriminate murders of POC by a tiny segment of the police force (0.09% is tiny, gang) must find even more expansive ways to spread the word. We are discovering the limits to social media activism so being imaginative is key. And that perhaps calls for the abolition of the police is a bit of an overreaction to the problem.