Nation still divided on police training, use of force

It’s been nearly two years since riots in Ferguson, Mo., pushed the death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, the acquittal of the white officer who killed him and the disproportionate use of police force toward young black men into national headlines.

Police, civilian deaths across USA
Police, civilian deaths across USA

Since then, videotaped police encounters, protests, and demands for legislative and law enforcement overhauls by groups such as Black Lives Matter, the student-led Black Liberation Collective and Campaign Zero have forced the entire nation to more closely examine issues of police brutality, undue use of force and inadequate cop training.

And in some cases, those in positions of power have acted: In January, the San Francisco Police Department decided to revamp its 20-year-old use-of-force policy after a police-involved shooting was caught on camera.

Find the arrest rates in your state
Find the arrest rates in your state

And more recently, the Department of Justice sued the city of Ferguson after its City Council broke an agreement that would have required the department to, among other things, ensure that its officers reflected the makeup of the local community. The department’s 53 officers in 2014 were 94% white, while the community itself was nearly 70% black. Ferguson isn’t alone. Police departments in major cities across the country have a long way to go to fairly reflect the communities they serve.  Baltimore is 62.5% black, but as of 2013, less than half of its police officers were African American (see graphics below for breakdowns of other city departments throughout the country).

Division over what should be done about the disconnect between the demographic makeup of police departments and their communities is also reflected in public opinion. More blacks than whites say departments should adjust to reflect community demographics, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.   

Below, in the wake of action by the DOJ, a look at how police department demographics compare with those of the communities they serve; an examination of police training; and polls that reflect public opinion about it all.

police-departments

 

communities

 

But the public’s views on police training and use of force remain split, with blacks feeling less confident than whites about police being adequately trained to avoid use of excessive force. Also, 84% of blacks say police are more likely to use deadly force against a black person, while 57% of whites say race is not a factor at all. See more details in the graphics below.

 

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use-of-force

 

Take a look at all the data on this page, and in the hyperlinked maps.  Then leave your view on what’s happening in your community. What’s being done to improve relations between police and minority communities in your area?  Send us photos and videos of positive outcomes using letters@usatoday.com. College students, show us what’s happening on your campus via video. Use #policingtheusa to leave a comment on Twitter. Or leave a voice message at 540-739-2928.