Nearly two and a half years after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the ensuing protests against police brutality, a majority of police officers say their colleagues who aren't doing their jobs are not properly held accountable, according to a survey released on Wednesday.
More than half of the officers surveyed (53%) said the disciplinary process in their department was unfair, and 72% said that officers who "consistently do a poor job" are not held accountable.
The PEW Research Center surveyed 7,917 police officers across 54 different police departments with more than 100 officers. The poll was conducted between May 19 and Aug. 14 last year, with some of the responses coming after the shooting of five police officers in Dallas by a sniper at a Black Lives Matter protest in July.
Officers' attitudes toward Black Lives Matter and other protesters who have taken to the streets following police shootings varied depending on their race. Overall, 35% of officers said they thought protesters were motivated at least in part by a desire to see officers held accountable for their actions. A majority of black officers (69%) said protesters were at least partly motivated by wanting to see accountability–in contrast, just 27% of white officers held that same view.
Most officers (86%) said their jobs have been made more difficult by highly publicized police killings of black people.
"Long-standing tensions between police and blacks underlie many of the survey results. While substantial majorities of officers say police have a good relationship with whites, Hispanics and Asians in their communities, 56% say the same about police relations with blacks," the PEW report says, going on to say that around 60% of white and Latinx officers characterize police relations with black people as excellent or good, compared with 32% of black officers.
That discrepancy carries over to officers' views on race relations more broadly: a decisive majority (92%) of white officers said they think the country has "made the changes needed to assure equal rights for blacks." Just 29% of black officers agree.
The research center compared the results of the survey with another survey they conducted of the general population, the Pew Research Center American Trends Panel survey, which included 4,538 adults and was conducted online and by mail between Aug. 16 and Sept. 12 last year.
Compared to 92% of white officers, 57% of white people surveyed said they thought the country had made necessary changes for black people to have equal rights.
On gun regulations, 67% of police said they would oppose a ban on assault-style weapons, while 64% of the general public said they would support a ban. But opinions converged more on restrictions on gun sales, with a majority of police (88%) and the public (86%) supporting background checks for private gun sales, and a majority of officers (61%) and the public (71%) supporting a federal database to track all gun sales.
One more point of agreement between the surveys was on police use of body cameras–a policy that's been implemented in several police departments nationwide in response to calls for greater accountability. Some 93% of the general population surveyed and 66% of police officers supported their use.