Americans are less confident that police are sufficiently trained to avoid the use of excessive force, while concerns about how Black Americans and other minorities are treated by the criminal-justice system remain higher than in previous years, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted during the final stretch of Derek Chauvin’s trial.
Sixty percent of Americans — including 53% of white people, 83% of Black people and 67% of Hispanic people — say the U.S. should do more to hold police accountable for mistreatment of Black people, the poll found. Studies show Black Americans are more likely on average than white Americans to be killed in police encounters.
In contrast, 33% of Americans overall say the country is doing too much to interfere in how police officers do their job.
Meanwhile, just 44% of Americans (50% of white people, 20% of Black people and 34% of Hispanic people) say they’re either “very” or “somewhat” confident that police in the U.S. are adequately trained to avoid use of excessive force. Overall confidence is down from 47% in polling last July and 54% in late 2014.
Concern that Black people and other minorities don’t receive equal treatment to white people in the criminal justice system (a view expressed by 63% of respondents) was at one of its highest points since 1988, surpassed only by the 69% who said the same last July, at the height of racial-injustice protests stemming from 46-year-old George Floyd’s death beneath Chauvin’s knee.
Asked about President Biden’s efforts to try to reform police practices, 42% said he was doing too little, 32% said he was doing the right amount, and 15% said he was doing too much.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called on Congress this week to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and some no-knock warrants and address the “qualified immunity” legal doctrine that shields law-enforcement officers from civil lawsuits. The bill passed the House last month.
The survey of 1,007 adults was conducted between Sunday and Wednesday, a period that spanned the Chauvin trial’s closing arguments, jury deliberation and eventual guilty verdict on Tuesday.
There was no significant difference in survey responses before and after the jury found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death, the Washington Post reported.
Floyd’s killing, along with the deaths of many other unarmed Black Americans including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Elijah McClain, spurred global protests last year and have prompted course correction on police violence, racial discrimination and historical inequalities.
Police killings continued throughout Chauvin’s trial: As of Saturday, an average of more than three people per day had died at the hands of law enforcement since testimony started March 29, according to the New York Times. More than half of the 64 people killed were Black or Latino.
Minutes after Chauvin was convicted, police in Columbus, Ohio fatally shot Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl seen on bodycam video charging at two people with a knife, prompting outrage and demonstrations over their use of deadly force.