Police officers say high-profile deaths in recent years caused by law enforcement have changed the way they do their job, making it harder, says a new Pew Research Center poll, the Washington Post reports. More than seven in 10 officers say police have become more timid about stopping to question suspicious people, roughly three-quarters say fellow officers report they are more reluctant to use force when necessary, and more than 9 in 10 say fellow officers have grown more worried about their safety. “How officers see their job and how they perform on their job has changed as a result of these high-profile incidents and the resulting protests,” said Pew’s Rich Morin.
Two-thirds of the officers say the deaths of black Americans during encounters with police are isolated incidents, not a sign of broader problems between law enforcement and black citizens. The findings underscore a stark disconnect between many rank-and-file officers and the public. When a separate Pew poll asked Americans about black individuals who died in police encounters, 60 percent said the deaths represent broader problems between police and black citizens. Only 31 percent of police officers say the same, Pew found. The survey of nearly 8,000 officers is the first nationally representative measure of police reaction to the debate about officers’ treatment of black Americans after Michael Brown’s 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Mo. The survey, which drew on departments with at least 100 officers, was done last spring and summer by the National Police Research Platform in partnership with Pew. More than 8 in 10 officers say the public does not understand the risks and challenges of their jobs, and a similar number say their departments are understaffed. Half reported concerns about their safety.