A countywide poll conducted last month found that respect for law enforcement in Memphis was at an all-time high, but confidence in law enforcement and their ability to effectively police their communities was lacking among African Americans.
The poll was conducted as part of the Safe Community Plan. Launched in 2007, the Safe Community Plan is a community-based crime reduction initiative spearheaded by the Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission.
The Safe Community Plan hopes to strengthen community engagement in crime prevention efforts, empower the Memphis Police Department’s ability to reduce violent street crime, and improve intervention programs for ex-offenders. One of its key jobs is to foster a positive relationship with the community.
The poll was comprised of 450 registered voters, 294 of which were registered in Memphis. Forty-eight percent of the respondents identified as white, 46 percent as African American, and 5 percent as other. One percent refused the poll countywide.
Ninety-five percent of those polled stated that they respected local law enforcement, 67 percent strongly agreeing and 28 percent somewhat agreeing. Seventy-eight percent stated that they support the hiring of more police officers.
Race and ethnicity became a factor in answers when it came to the quality of policing experienced by Memphians.
Fifty-six percent of African Americans gave a positive rating for neighborhood policing efforts. Among white respondents, 85 percent gave positive ratings for neighborhood policing efforts.
Fifty percent of African Americans felt that local law enforcement is doing an excellent or good job enforcing the law in their communities. Among white respondents, confidence in local law enforcement was at 80 percent.
Trust in local law enforcement was also a problem, with only 45 percent of African Americans responding they felt that local police are doing an excellent or good job of being honest and trustworthy. Worse, only 37 percent of African Americans felt that local police are competent at solving crimes that occur across Shelby County.
President of the Crime Commission Bill Gibbons commented on the results, stating the need to improve.
“Respect for local law enforcement and support for more police officers is overwhelming across the board among various subgroups polled. At the same time, there is a feeling — especially among African American respondents — that there is room for improvement, ranging from reducing violent crime to reducing unnecessary use of force.”
A full breakdown of the report can be found at memphiscrime.org.