Almost half of young Americans believe that the justice system in the United States is racially and ethnically biased. The only thing surprising about these new survey results is that the number is not higher.
Justice Department investigations revealed local police department racism and corruption within multiple cities. The FBI admitted it has falsified testimony in thousands of cases. And protests in Baltimore and other points across the U.S. have ramped up after the suspicious death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody—another Black man killed with police involvement in disturbing circumstances.
Those examples and more paint clear and alarming reasons why the Harvard University study shows faith and confidence in law enforcement is low.
In the survey of Americans ages 18 to 29, Harvard’s Institute of Politics asked if they were confident the U.S. judicial system could “fairly judge people without bias for race and ethnicity.”
Forty-nine percent of respondents said they had not much or no confidence, the researchers said.
Among African-Americans, 66 percent said they had not much or no confidence in the system’s fairness, while 53 percent of Hispanics expressed similar misgivings, the study found.
The national Black Lives Matter movement that has arisen in response to high-profile incidents of police use of force, galvanizing the Black community that has been pained by so many cases of community members killed by police. In the survey, 81 percent of Blacks support the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and 59 percent of Hispanics do, while only 37 percent of whites deem it viable or necessary.
Those numbers exemplify the racial divide that seems to widen with each African-American who is killed by law enforcement.
Overall, 59 percent of those asked believe the movement will have little to no effect in changing the criminal justice system.
The timing of the survey results is ironic. Baltimore is a power keg of anger and pain—much like Ferguson, MO, after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a local police officer—with the National Guard on hand supposedly to bring peace. The speculation around Gray’s death from a spine injury while in police custody shows the lack of confidence that the public has in the police.
The survey also found 80 percent of those asked said equipping police officers with body cameras could help reduce racial inequalities in the justice system, although video evidence has been presented in some cases of police killings and the officers were not arrested—not even put on trial.
The Los Angeles Police Commission approved rules governing the widespread use of body cameras in the nation’s second largest city, bringing it a step closer to becoming the largest U.S. metropolis to provide the vast majority of officers with the devices. But if the culture and attitudes do not change, why will the results?
The survey of 3,034 U.S. citizens has a margin of error of 2.4 percent. It is conducted annually, and this most recent poll took place between March 18 and April 1.