A recent study from Pew Research Center indicates that police officers are one of the most trusted authorities in America, ranking just below public school principals and ahead of the six other groups discussed in the survey, including religious leaders and journalists. Members of Congress ranked at the bottom of the list.
I think this study contradicts the national narrative that mistrust of the police is raging nationwide. The silent majority of Americans support law enforcement. According to the study, “Police officers also are viewed in a positive light by the U.S. public. More than eight-in-ten (84%) U.S. adults say police officers protect people from crime ‘all or most’ or ‘some of the time.’ Three-quarters or more also say that police officers care about people (79%), responsibly handle the resources available to them (79%) and provide fair and accurate information to the public (74%) at least some of the time.
For several years now, we have seen story after story about how confidence in law enforcement has fallen off or that trust is at an all-time low. According to the Pew study, that is not the case. The stories also say no one would want to be a police officer in times of such mistrust. That hasn’t been our experience, either. We have had a wonderful response to our recruitment efforts and get about a thousand applications for the position of police officer each year. This is a noble profession, and I am grateful that so many people want to pursue it with our agency.
This is not to say we don’t have work to do. The study also pointed out, “Opinions about police officers differ widely by racial and ethnic group, with white people holding more positive opinions about police officers than black people and Hispanics do. … Roughly seven-in-ten white Americans (72%) say police officers treat racial and ethnic groups equally at least some of the time. By way of comparison, half of Hispanics and just 33% of black adults say the same.”
This divide shows where we have work to do, and it’s something we are working tirelessly with the community to address. I believe this starts with our young people, which is why programs like the Youth Police Initiative, Teens in Transition, the KC Police Athletic League (PAL) and more are so important in building trust. Another important piece in bridging that gap is the Office of Community Complaints, which has a national reputation as a premier civilian oversight board that residents can turn to when they feel police aren’t acting in their best interest. Reflecting our community in our staffing remains an ongoing challenge, and one we will continue to pursue.
A community depends on its law enforcement and its trust of that law enforcement. I’m pleased that the Pew Center study showed police are one of the most trusted groups in America, and we have been blessed by all the support we have received and continue to receive in Kansas City. Residents and KCPD members alike want a trustworthy police department we can all be proud of.
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