Survey Finds Civilians, Media Can Improve Relations with Police One Year After Dallas Shooting

During a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas in July of last year, a sniper intent on killing police officers — especially white ones, according to the chief of police — took aim at law enforcement as they were attempting to keep the peace on the streets.

As shots rang out, several officers rushed to protect those who may have harbored animosity toward them. At the end of the day, five officers were slain in the deadliest attack on law enforcement since 9/11.

One year later, the results of a survey released in January show that police believe there is still much to improve on when it comes to how the public appreciates — and how the media treats — law enforcement.

86% of law enforcement officers surveyed were not convinced the public understands the risks and challenges they face while on the job. Only 1% believed the public does this “very well.”

The public, however, tend to think highly of themselves on the same issue: 83% believed they understood either “very well” or “somewhat well” what officers face.

John Cardillo, a former NYPD officer who served over ten years, told me that the public is largely delusional.

“Unless you’ve done a car stop at night in a high-crime area” when passengers refuse to roll down their tinted windows, “you can never say you understand what’s going through a cop’s mind,” he said. Unless you’ve done the job, “it’s almost impossible.”

When it comes to the portrayal of law enforcement in the media, 81% of officers surveyed indicated that their treatment was generally unfair. About four in ten “strongly” felt this to be true. Of this group, more white officers tended to feel this way (43%) than black officers (34%).

Furthermore, cynicism about media coverage and feelings of frustration or anger on the job are intertwined. It is more likely that those who strongly agree that the media treat police unfairly will feel frustrated or angry compared with those who do not strongly agree.

Cardillo, host of a nationally syndicated radio show, noted how whenever there is a newsworthy event involving police, the media tends to find ways to inflate stories in such a way that can negatively impact the department in question and officers as a whole.

When you have smaller departments with subpar public relations teams, Cardillo noted, oftentimes reporters will sniff that out. Realizing that they are dealing with PR novices, they will take advantage of the situation. Such was the case in Ferguson, Missouri, Cardillo claimed, whose public information infrastructure was not as sophisticated as those in New York, Chicago, or Dallas last year under Chief of Police David Brown.

Additionally, those public relations teams in urban areas are largely borne out of the fact that cities, by their nature, not only tend to vote liberal but also house some of the largest media companies in the country.

It’s no surprise, then, as Cardillo put it, that “big city agencies are used to being vilified.”