Police in the U.S. appear to be ending the year on a somewhat positive note, as a majority of Americans have rated officers highly for their honesty and demonstration of ethical standards. During a national backlash against police shootings in minority communities in 2014, nonwhites’ opinion of police trustworthiness sent officers’ national rating plummeting to 48 percent, in a Gallup survey.
Now one year later, a Gallup poll released Monday shows Americans rate police trustworthiness and ethical standards at 56 percent. This is more consistent with the 54 percent to 58 percent rating seen between 2010 and 2013, Gallup said.
Four in 10 nonwhites – African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans and American Indians -- now rate the ethical standards of police as very high or high, according to the poll. Just 23 percent held that view in December of 2014.
However, nonwhites' attitudes of police have not rebounded to their pre-2014 levels, according to Gallup. A 5 percent increase -- from 59 percent to 64 percent -- in whites' positive views of the police this year helped the rating rebound.
The opinions were part of Gallup annual survey asking Americans to rate the honesty and ethics of workers in more than 20 professions. Nurses had the highest percentage of very high rating at 85 percent, while lobbyists had the lowest percent of very high rating at 7 percent.
The image of the police is back to what it was before the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August of 2014. That shooting helped “Black Lives Matter,” an anti-police and anti-vigilante social justice movement created in 2013 after the deaths of young black men, force a national conversation around the police brutality.
Additional controversies over police behavior have erupted in 2015, most notably in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered fatal injuries while police custody in Baltimore. But the overall image of police professionalism remains high because of whites’ positive views, Gallup said.
Gallup’s poll was based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 2 through Dec. 6, with a random sample of 824 adults, aged 18 and older, who were living in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.