A new survey shows the approval rating for Seattle police has risen twelve percentage points over the past three years, to a high of 72 percent in 2016. Among African-Americans, approval of the police department's performance has jumped from 49 percent in 2013 to 62 percent today, according to the survey.
"This latest survey shows exciting progress," said Chief Kathleen O'Toole, "and affirms our commitment to providing fair and equitable police services to our community."
But the survey (PDF) also found that African Americans and Latinos are twice as likely (35 percent) to report a negative interaction with police than whites (18 percent).
That racial disparity has not improved since 2013, the pollsters said.
As part of the Department of Justice-mandated reform process, polling firm Anzalone Liszt Grove Research carried out 700 randomized telephone interviews with Seattle-area adults, plus an additional 95 interviews with Latinos and 105 interviews with African-Americans in an effort to oversample those populations (it's not clear how the interviewees were selected) throughout 2016.
The margin of error is +/- 3.7 percent.
The Community Police Commission tells me it has concerns about the firm's methodology, including the fact that the survey was only delivered in English and Spanish. Another ongoing online survey about police, conducted by Seattle University, is being given in Amharic, Chinese, English, Korean, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.
In addition, Seattle-King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson told me he doesn't believe the Department of Justice-mandated survey results. The local NAACP has received an uptick in the amount of complaints about police compared to previous years, Hankerson said, though he didn't have specific numbers on hand.
"I don't understand how they come up with these numbers," Hankerson said on Monday. "If you go out to these same communities, 8 out of 10 are going to say the opposite of what this survey says. They'll tell you they feel like nothing has changed."
Other key findings from the survey, via SPD, are all encouraging:
Few people report being victims of excessive force from SPD in the last year. One percent of people say they have been victims of excessive force in the past year. That includes less than one percent of Latinos and African Americans.
Fewer people are reporting problems with SPD from their personal interactions. People who are stopped by SPD are more likely to approve of the way that stop is handled (71 percent approve) than they were in 2013 (65 percent) or 2015 (70 percent). This includes all-time high numbers among people who had non-traffic stops (60 percent approve), African Americans (58 percent), and Latinos (65 percent), all groups which have consistently trailed the citywide numbers.
Perceptions of racial profiling and excessive force are starting to drop. People are more likely to perceive SPD treats people respectfully than in the past, and they are less likely to perceive SPD uses excessive force, verbal abuse, racial profiling, or racial slurs as often as they perceived in 2013. That’s a change from 2015—in 2015 fewer people reported being victims of those incidents, but the citywide perception of their frequency hadn’t yet changed.