- Black adults less confident in local police than White adults, 56% vs. 74%
- Black Americans less optimistic about fair and courteous police interactions
- Black adults’ support for police reform 20 points higher than adults’ overall
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Black Americans’ perceptions of policing in their communities remain substantially less positive than those of other U.S. adults. Black Thriving in America: 2023 (PDF download), a new report from the Payne Center for Social Justice, using data from Gallup’s Center on Black Voices, reviews these findings for the current year in the context of Black Americans’ wellbeing. The analyses featured here show that this pattern has been consistent across three years of tracking.
Black Adults Less Confident in Local Policing, Relations With Police
About seven in 10 U.S. adults in 2023, 69%, report that they are confident in their local police. Black Americans (56%) remain less confident than White Americans (74%) and Hispanic Americans (64%). These readings have been relatively steady since 2021.
Likewise, a fairly steady 73% of U.S. adults say they are satisfied with the relationship between police and their local community. Black Americans (60%) continue to be least satisfied, compared with Hispanic Americans (65%) and White Americans (78%).
Black Americans Remain Less Optimistic About Police Treatment
Black Americans’ perceptions that their local police treat people like them fairly, which dipped slightly to 54% in 2022, has recovered this year to 61%. However, Black Americans remain less likely than Hispanic Americans (72%) and, especially, White Americans (90%) to say police treat people like them fairly.
Similarly, Black Americans’ views that police would treat them with courtesy and respect in an interaction (71%) continues to fall well below the national average (85%), as well as the percentages among Hispanic Americans (78%) and White Americans (90%).
Desire for Major Police Reform Greatest Among Black Americans
A slim majority of U.S. adults (53%) think “major” changes are needed to policing in the United States. This figure is 20 percentage points higher for Black Americans, while White Americans continue to be least likely to agree that major changes are needed (48%).
Although support for major police reform has remained steady among Black adults since 2021, there was a drop in support in 2022 among U.S. adults overall (from 57% down to 50%), and for both Hispanic (62% versus 54%) and White adults (51% versus 44%). For Hispanic and White adults, the percentages favoring “major” police reform are higher in 2023 than in 2022, but not as high as the 2021 readings.
Adults who have less-favorable opinions toward local policing are more likely to endorse major police reform. For example, 82% of Black adults who are dissatisfied with police-community relations where they live endorse major changes to policing, while 66% of Black adults who are satisfied say the same.
With the increased salience of discussions of police mistreatment, police reform has been even more fiercely debated, and several states have attempted to make changes to improve police practices and transparency. In light of this, the MacArthur Foundation has launched a national Safety and Justice Challenge to reimagine criminal justice at large. Attitudes toward policing remain an important barometer of the need for and success of police reforms.
It is also a matter of safety. Black Americans who report that they have confidence in their local police force are more likely to say they feel safe in other ways too. Nearly seven in 10 Black Americans who have confidence in their local police force say they feel safe walking alone at night where they live, compared with four in 10 Black Americans who do not have confidence in their local police force.
A sense of safety and justice are critical to the welfare of Black America (PDF download). Lingering disparities in feelings toward day-to-day protections should be a concern: These basic needs that all humans share are not yet met equitably in this nation. All Americans should be able to rely on police as a safeguard for their communities.
For more on policing and the Black life experience, read Black Thriving in America (PDF download).
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