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Police Brutality and Public Trust of Law Enforcement: 1960s Vs. Today

Americans used to trust and respect the police in this country a whole lot more.

The article below was printed in the August 31, 1967 edition of the Des Moines Register. It featured the results of a Gallup Poll regarding respect for police and the existence of police brutality.

These poll figures on police from 50 years ago provide a startling glimpse at the rise of the modern American police state.

Not quite half a century ago, and following the summer riots in Detroit and other cities across the U.S. no less, most Americans trusted and respected the police. Nearly eight out of 10 adults responded they had a “great deal” of respect for police.

In fact, only 6% of the 1,626 people polled across the country said they believed police brutality even existed at all.

That figure had actually gone down from 9% on a prior poll in 1965, while the percent of people who claimed to have a “great deal” of respect for police rose from 70% in 1965 to 77% at the time of the 1967 poll.

This means that the declarations of martial law and police response to and presence following the summer riots actually strengthened Americans’ views of police, not the other way around. In fact, only 4% of 1967 Gallup respondents said they had “hardly any” respect for the cops.

Now compare that with how people feel and what’s going on today.

In a 1999 Gallup Poll, 38% of Americans answered not only that they believe police brutality exists, but that they specifically believed incidents of police brutality had actually occurred in their area.

Nearly a third (27%) responded that they personally felt they had been treated unfairly by police. By that time, 64% responded they had a “great deal” of respect for police, down 13% from the 1967 figures. The following year in 2000, only 60% said they had a “great deal” of respect for police.

While not exactly the same poll, Gallup asked people in 2015 how much “confidence” they had in the police just this past June. Only 25% said “a great deal,” which Gallup noted was the lowest since 1993.

In other words, Americans’ confidence in police hit a 22-year low.

Wonder what it would be if they specifically asked Americans about police respect these days.

Hardly a day goes by in recent years by that someone isn’t (or multiple someones aren’t) shot and killed by police in this country.

Because a database was never properly kept on these killings, we’ll never be able to properly compare these figures with those from 50 years ago… but just judging on the poll numbers above, it isn’t hard to take a guess at how much less death by cop there used to be in America.

Just a couple weeks ago, FBI Director James B. Comey admitted it is “embarrassing” and “ridiculous” that it’s 2015 and there is still no official government database kept to track officer-involved shootings.

“You can get online today and figure out how many tickets were sold to ‘The Martian,’ which I saw this weekend… The CDC can do the same with the flu,” he continued.

“It’s ridiculous — it’s embarrassing and ridiculous — that we can’t talk about crime in the same way, especially in the high-stakes incidents when your officers have to use force.”

How sad is that?

With as militarized as our modern police state is, how much power and weaponry they have at their disposal, and how many lives are ended by American police on a daily basis, it’s insane that in all these years no one has officially required even this most basic level of accountability.

“The FBI has for years collected information about people killed by police officers, but reporting is voluntary and only 3 percent of the nation’s 18,000 police departments comply.

As a result, the data is virtually useless…”

Over at “Killed by Police,” a website that started as a Facebook page in 2013 to keep track of these things, as of today there have been at least 938 people killed by U.S. police since January 1, 2015; 1,107 were killed by cops in 2014; and 2,813 people have been killed by cops in America since May 1, 2013 when the page started.

By contrast, 117 law enforcement officers died in 2014, and of those, 16 were drug- or alcohol-related deaths, 18 were due to job-related illness, and 32 were vehicle crashes. Only 48 were shot, and the data does not specify how many of those shootings were by suspects versus friendly fire, accidents,  or suicides.

Here’s where we’re at.

Modern police have been militarized. They are equipped with “less-than-lethal” weapons such as LRAD devices, weaponized drones, and mine-resistant, ambush-protected tanks the Pentagon sells as surplus off of foreign battlefields.

Police now use pre-crime algorithms based on our social media posts to assign us a threat score before they ever even lay eyes on us. We walk around in a surveillance society that seems more like something out of a George Orwell novel than a rational reality.

More than 100 families are SWAT raided a day in this country. While there were an average of 3,000 SWAT raids a year in 1980, there are an average of 80,000 SWAT raids yearly now — a nearly 2600% increase.

Over 60% of them, just by the way, are related to the failed drug war.

More than three people a day die at the hands of police in this country today, and there’s not even an official database on use of lethal force to track the trend. The perception of police brutality has skyrocketed across the nation, while respect for police as the people we call to “protect and serve” us has continuously dwindled.

It’s sobering to look at how opinions of the American police state have evolved over the last half a century.

And it’s proof that things didn’t always used to be this way.

By Melissa Dykes, Truthstream Media