Turmoil Over Shootings by Police Lingered in 2016

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Tensions between police and minority communities that flared two years ago in Ferguson, Mo., after the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, didn’t ease in 2016, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a two-week span in July, protests erupted across the U.S. over the police killings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, five police officers were gunned down by a sniper in Dallas, and three officers were killed in Baton Rouge. Since then, officers have been targeted in other killings, and protests persist over officer-involved shootings. Last year’s unrest evoked tumultuous times in the 1960s and 1970s, but with a key difference: Protests are targeted primarily at police themselves, said Charles Ramsey, a former police chief who was co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

“I have seen years, especially in the early ’70s, when we had more officers” shot, killed and injured, Ramsey said. “What I haven’t seen is the kind of reaction the public has whenever there is an officer-involved shooting whether it is justified or not.” Police shootings of black men continued to drive a wedge between police and the communities they serve, said Samuel Sinyangwe of Campaign Zero, which is focused on ending police violence. He said cities and states have begun making changes to improve policing. Amid the turmoil Americans’ respect for police jumped to its highest levels since 1967. A Gallup poll in October found 76 percent of Americans said they have “a great deal” of respect for police in their area, up 12 percentage points from 2015, an increase that experts attributed in part to high-profile attacks on police. Views of police split along racial lines. The Pew Research Center said nearly 80 percent of black Americans viewed police killings of blacks a sign of a broader problem, compared with 54 percent of whites.

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