Despite two recent decisions by grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island not to indict White police officers in the killings of two unarmed Black men and the international protests those decisions sparked, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds that whites are very confident in law enforcement’s ability to police Black and whites equally.
In the poll, 52 percent of whites claimed to have a “great deal” of confidence that police officers in their community treat Blacks and whites the same. As Scott Clement noted over at the Washington Post, this is “11 points higher than in a September NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asking the same question.” It is a different firm conducting the poll, but the results are no less concerning.
Naturally, the NBC News/Marist poll highlighted sharp racial divides:
The poll showed other evidence of a sharp racial split. Eighty-two percent of blacks agree that law enforcement applies different standards to whites and blacks. Eighty percent strongly agree. Only 39% of whites agree with that, while 51% disagree.
It’s a similar story on the issue of excessive force. Seventy-nine percent of whites say they have “a great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence that police won’t use excessive force. But 52% of blacks have “just some” or “very little” confidence that they won’t.
The poll was conducted Dec. 4-5— the two days that followed news of the decision by the Staten Island grand jury not to indict Eric Garner’s killer, Daniel Pantaleo.
We are in the midst of a rising count of Black deaths at the hands of white police officers and the end result is a vote of confidence in local police? This suggests racism at worse or a naiveté at minimum. Neither is excusable and both are disturbing when it comes to getting the country to see just how terrorized Black people feel by law enforcement.
Just this week the New York Times reported on Brooklyn police officers allegedly planting guns on Black suspects.
One the victims of this, Jeffrey Herring, was quoted saying:
Mr. Herring, who has been out of jail on $3,500 bail that his sister posted, said the arrest left him feeling humiliated.
“I don’t know why I’m in this situation. I thought maybe when I cleaned up my life, I’d never be back,” he said. “Why do these people want to prosecute me and have me convicted of this crime that I didn’t do? I just don’t understand it.”
This coincides with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explaining on a recent episode of The Daily Show, “The United States right now incarcerates more African-Americans as a percentage than apartheid South Africa did.”
And while we know the names of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there are other Black men have died just like them. Last month, the Utah County Attorney’s Office released the surveillance video connected to the fatal shooting of Darrien Hunt, who was in costume and holding a decorative Samurai sword. Utah police shot him six times in the back.
HPD Officer Juventino Castro reappeared before a grand jury on Tuesday in relation to the shooting death of another unarmed Black man, Jordan Baker. Baker was shot and killed by Castro at a northwest Houston strip center where a string of robberies had been reported. The suspect’s description included a black hoodie, such as the one Baker was wearing. Castro was off-duty and working as a security guard when he killed Baker.
I only have one question to the white people who now have a record high level of confidence in local police departments: What planet do you live on?
Is this rooted in the belief that racism exists in Cleveland, New York, Houston, and Los Angeles, but not your community? If so, you are choosing to remain willfully ignorant. This is a nationwide problem and there are Black people in every part of this country that can attest to that.
No matter what you cite as the basis of your confidence in local police to treat Blacks and whites fairly, the fact remains: you are wrong.