Manhattan Institute Report reveals serious misconceptions about police violence by the public, driven by media.
By Eileen Griffin
An August 2023 report reveals that most Americans do not have an accurate picture of police violence.
The media often portrays police officers as racists who use unnecessarily aggressive tactics with black Americans, but this is far from reality, a new report from the Manhattan Institute concludes.
The study analyzed the influence the media has on perceptions Americans have of police violence. The report considered the changing perspectives many have of law enforcement coinciding with the unprecedented and extensive amount of coverage the media has given recently to the issue.
In recent years, the public has come to believe that America’s police officers are a brutal group of individuals randomly using aggressive force. They are reportedly racist, more frequently pursuing blacks than other races.
Crime, Disorder Soars
Confidence in police officers is at an all-time low while support for defunding the police and restricting police enforcement tactics remain high.
Lawlessness reached beyond the cities into places not accustomed to that level of crime. Suburban communities were also subjected to mobs, looting, violence, and shootings while law enforcement was curtailed and defunded, as Heartland Daily News reported.
Police officers across the country became targets for violence and murder while elected officials refused to support their efforts at restoring civil order.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, cities across the country pursued anti-police policies while defunding and publicly disparaging their own law enforcement officers.
Public support for disparaging the police comes from a perception that police officers target black Americans. The media portrays law enforcement as the cause, not the solution, to urban violence.
In 2022, 52 percent of Democrats said that police officers were more racist than other groups in society. That number was 35 percent in 2014.
Police violence is considered a serious problem by 45 percent of the public including 67 percent of Democrats.
Black Americans have also become more fearful of the police due to the false perception, the report states. Black Americans and liberal white Americans incorrectly believe that black men are more likely to be killed by a police officer than in a car accident.
The 2020 survey data of black men between the ages of 18 and 34 documents 2.2 deaths per 100,000 by a police officer encounter. Death by car accident was 38.4 per 100,000.
Most of the anti-police public sentiment is driven by the media, but the perception peddled by the media is inaccurate and not reflective of reality, the Manhattan Institute report concludes.
“Rather than a response to actual increases in use of force, the swing of public opinion against the police appears to be a largely media-driven phenomenon—one apparently facilitated by the rapid adoption of smartphones and social media and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement,” writes Zach Goldberg, Paulson Policy Analyst for the Manhattan Institute.
The public has been a victim of manipulation. If their only source of information is the news media and political elites, they are likely to believe that police brutality is a serious problem.
Even if the media reports an accurate story about the police, they often leave out context that would reflect a different perspective than the one they want the public to be fed.
Misperceptions about police brutality costs the very people law enforcement is meant to protect. The vulnerable people who need it most may not have access to police support.
Negative media coverage and public disparaging of law enforcement can result in officers becoming less pro-active in policing. Morale suffers and police officers leave the profession leaving cities at greater risk.
Black communities suffering with high crime rates will only create more victims if they are afraid to seek support from their local law enforcement.
“Among the general public, they (the media) erode trust in—as well as the perceived legitimacy of—the police, which can inspire mass protests, economically costly social unrest, and greater support for de-policing policies that threaten public safety,” Goldberg writes.
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