By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The protesters want police reform. The president wants “law and order.”

How is the broader public reacting to these dueling demands? Current and past polling sketch the outlines of striking change in public attitudes toward police violence against civilians.

Over the years when they’ve polled confidence and respect for public institutions, only the military and small business have scored better numbers than police.

In 1965, the Gallup poll found 70% of Americans had “a great deal” of respect for police. Fifty years later the percent expressing confidence in the police had fallen to an all-time low of 52%.

What happened?

The smartphone.

In 2014 alone we saw graphic video of police killings of Eric Garner, who choked to death in their custody in New York, and Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old in Cleveland playing with a toy gun. In early 2015 we also saw Walter Scott murdered by a police officer, shot in the back five times.

In the wake of these widely-publicized atrocities, confidence in police fell among blacks (-5% ), Hispanics (-14%), and people aged 18-34 (-12%).

And a new Washington Post/Schar School poll shows how the anger and skepticism is spreading.

In 2014, after a summer of street protests sparked by the Garner case and the events in Ferguson, Missouri, 51% of those polled said those cases were isolated incidents, while 43% saw them as part of a broader problem with police. Six years and numerous caught-on-camera incidents later, there’s been a huge swing in those numbers: 69% say its part of a broader problem, while just 29% think it’s an isolated incident.

And one last remarkable finding from the Post survey: 74% overall support the protests, even 53% of Republicans.

There has always been an anti-authoritarian strain in American culture. Most of us support the police, but even for some of our most conservative citizens, there is such a thing as going too far.

And in the face of video after video showing a level of force and brutality that only a reactionary police-union official or a defense lawyer would call justified, it appears the vast majority of us believe the cops are going too far, too often.

Jon Keller

Comments (2)
  1. Steven Prisco says:

    Hey Keller, why don’t you try being an honest, fair journalist for a change. A rarity in the age of Trump. When you mention unjust police killings, instead of just naming cases involving black people and trying to incite them, how about mentioning someone like Daniel Shaver, or Justine Damond, or David Kassick who are white. It does happen to white people too you know. If you know those names shame on you for not mentioning at least one of them. If you don’t know those names, then you’re not qualified for your “profession”.

  2. Vincent Vega says:

    Why does anyone employ Keller? He does not practice journalism he practices opinion.

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