Thursday, January 12, 2017

Race and Criminal Justice

Although confidence and respect for police has improved in the country (see blog), one of the most profound difficulties in dealing with police and community relations issues is the substantial differences in basic outlook on race relations between black and white Americans.

A 2016 national survey by Pew Research documents the differences. A majority of black residents (88%) believes the country needs to continue to make changes for blacks to have equal rights. Nearly half (43%) are skeptical the change will occur. But only 53 percent of whites believe there is still work to do and few doubt the changes will happen (11%).

When asked if blacks are treated less fairly than whites on a series of questions concerning treatment of blacks, white opinion is different by 20 to 30 percentage points. Hence, conversations begin from dramatically different positions.

Notice, as the Pew Research shows, one of the most controversial issues at the present time, “dealing with the police,” is an area where half the white community agrees “blacks are treated less fairly than whites.”

As local police departments, such as Denver, attempt to improve community relations, the backdrop of more general racial attitudes at this point in the country’s history make the effort substantially more challenging.

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