How one feels about law enforcement depends on numerous factors, yet are often rooted in location and race. The recent news coming from Ferguson, MO. has been evidence of this. According to a recent Gallup poll, whites overwhelmingly have more faith in their local law enforcement, starkly contrasting the 25 percent of blacks surveyed who said they had little to no confidence in police.
Such a figure really shouldn’t be surprising, especially given the recent protests and riots in Ferguson. Whites seldom experience the suspicious stares or treatment that blacks receive. Such practices are unacceptable and ideally going forward will be swiftly put to a halt. If we have learned anything from Ferguson, it is that there is a clear divide when it comes to the police and many black communities.
That being said, police often fail to receive the respect they deserve and tend to get generalized based on the actions of the few. It’s easy to lambaste the police as a trigger happy group that frequently abuses their power. The officers that are guilty of that are the minority, because like everyone else, the police are not perfect.
In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, many are calling for dramatic changes to law enforcement. Such a demand has merit, as there certainly needs to be changes in how some police interact with minorities, especially black males. Yet following an event as traumatic as what happened in Ferguson, it’s also imperative to have perspective.
While there are certainly some very flawed police and police departments, to make any sort of sweeping generalizations such as “all police are bad” is simply untrue. It’s also essential that people are reminded of just how important the police are to the thousands of communities in the United States.
For the past two decades, violent crime has been on a dramatic decline. While it is perhaps not entirely accurate to say the police have been solely responsible for the decline, it’s impossible to not recognize their contributions.
“Between 1993 and 2012, the violent crime rate (homicide, robbery, rape and aggravated assault) in the United States dropped by 48 percent,” Mike Weisser of the Huffington Post reported.
Perhaps even more impressive is that police have been able to help drop crime rates without frequently resorting to deadly force. Given what recently happened to Michael Brown that may seem hard to believe, though the reality is that such tragedies are few. Michael Medved of USA Today reported that “the number of annual police killings from 2005 to 2012 remained stable at about 400”.
Given the above statistics, as well as the most recent advances in police training and technology, law enforcement is in many ways the best it’s ever been. It may not be an exaggeration to say that law enforcement is currently in a golden age, as people are for the most part safer than ever before. While there is still an abundance of crime in some communities, the steep drop in crime in cities like New York remains remarkable.
Again, that’s not to say that law enforcement is perfect, because it’s not. The stories that have been told from Ferguson are proof of that. Racial profiling by police is a practice that needs to aggressively be stopped, and more attempts at building a better relationship between the police and communities would help to ease the apprehensions many minorities have towards law enforcement.
With that in mind, it’s still vital that people appreciate the contributions police give to their communities. It’s a difficult job, one that often lacks the rewards it deserves, and they are absolutely deserving of gratitude and respect.
Nick Ulferts is a senior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.