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For Black Americans, 41% of Police Encounters Not Positive

For Black Americans, 41% of Police Encounters Not Positive

Story Highlights

  • 59% rate their interaction with police positively, while 41% do not
  • Black adults rate police experience less positively than national average
  • White adults most likely to report being treated with respect, fairness

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Most Black Americans (59%) who report having had an interaction with a police officer in the past year say the interaction was an "overall positive experience," while 41% say the experience was not a positive one. While a majority, the percentage of Black adults who rate their interactions with police positively is much lower than the national average of 75%.

Assessments of Experience With Police by Adults Who Have Interacted With Police in the Past 12 Months, National Adults vs. Black Adults
Thinking about any interactions you may have had with the police over the past 12 months, overall, would you say it was an overall positive experience?
Yes, positive experience No, not a positive experience
% %
National adults 75 25
Black adults 59 41
Gallup Panel, June 23-July 6, 2020

The latest results, collected as nationwide protests took place after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, are based on a June 23-July 6 survey conducted by web in English using the Gallup Panel, a probability-based panel of U.S. adults. Learn more about the findings from this survey and others at the Gallup Center on Black Voices.

Less than half of White Americans (44%) and Black Americans (42%), and about half of Hispanic Americans (49%), say they have interacted with police in the past 12 months. The majority in each of these groups report that the interactions were generally positive.

In addition to asking respondents who have interacted with police in the past year to rate the experience overall, the poll asked whether the person felt treated fairly and with respect. In each case, the pattern was similar to the reports of the experience overall: Positive reports of these interactions are higher among White adults and lower among Black and Hispanic Americans.

About nine in 10 White adults who had police interactions within the past 12 months say they were treated with respect and fairness, while smaller majorities of Black and Hispanic adults recall the same treatment in their interactions. The gaps between Black Americans and Hispanic Americans on these measures are not statistically significant, but the differences between both groups and White Americans are significant.

Reports of Experiences in Interactions With Police, by Racial Group
Thinking about any interactions you may have had with the police over the past 12 months, overall, would you say …?
It was an overall positive experience You were treated with respect You were treated fairly
% Yes % Yes % Yes
National adults 75 86 89
White adults 79 90 93
Hispanic adults 68 81 84
Black adults 59 73 74
Gallup Panel, June 23-July 6, 2020

Bottom Line

Although the majority of Black Americans who interacted with the police in the past year report that the interaction was positive and that they were treated fairly and respectfully, sizable minorities have had encounters that were more troubling to them. Four in 10 Black Americans who interact with police walk away with a negative assessment of their interactions overall, a much higher rate than for White Americans who interact with police.

Black Americans' ratings of their experiences with police conform to separate Gallup findings that they are more likely than other groups to report mistreatment in general life, and that they are among the strongest proponents of "major reform" of police in the U.S.

Encounters with the police are initiated in different ways. Some are police-initiated -- the most common being traffic stops, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics -- while others are resident-initiated, of which the most common is to report a possible crime or other emergencies. Some encounters may have nothing to do with crime, such as attending a community event featuring police, conversing with a police officer on patrol or attending a school field trip. The frequency of each type of initiation varies across jurisdictions and racial groups -- and may play a role in how communities view their experiences with police.

Future research from the Gallup Center on Black Voices will shed more light on these and other issues.

Stay up to date with the trends, historical findings and new data from the Center.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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