Two out of three Americans don't think police are held accountable for misconduct

A new poll finds that the majority of the country is wary about police use of force in the wake of Ferguson

By Joanna Rothkopf
August 26, 2014 7:16PM (UTC)
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FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2014 file photo, a man watches as police walk through a cloud of smoke during a clash with protesters in Ferguson, Mo. The response to Brown’s death turned violent because of a convergence of factors, observers said. (AP/Jeff Roberson)

In the wake of the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Departments cracked down on protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, forcing civilians to reassess their relationship with police. A new USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds that relationship on the rocks. Two out of three Americans say that police departments do not do enough to hold officers accountable for misconduct, gauging the right amount of force to use, or treat people of different races equally.

USA TODAY reports:


While most whites give police low marks on those measures, blacks are overwhelmingly negative in their assessment of police tactics. More than nine of 10 African Americans say the police do an "only fair" or poor job when it comes to equal treatment and appropriate force...

Obama himself gets a lukewarm approval rating when it comes to handling race relations: 48 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove. Though that's higher than his overall job approval rating, it is significantly lower than predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton received on race relations during their tenure.

African Americans approve of Obama's handling of race relations by 73 percent-22 percent; whites disapprove by 48 percent-42 percent.

The poll of 1,501 adults, taken Wednesday through Sunday by landline and cellphone has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of 996 whites is +/14 points. For the sample of 153 blacks, it is 9 points.

The survey also found that more than four in ten respondents are not confident in the ability of police departments to use military equipment and weapons appropriately. This wariness coincides with Obama's decision to order a review of the federal programs responsible for supplying almost $500 million in military equipment to civilian police. The review will also take into account whether the police are given sufficient training regarding the use of the equipment.

Joanna Rothkopf

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Accountability Ferguson Police Poll