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Poll: Many Black Americans Believe More Needs to be Done to Achieve Racial Equality In Policing, But are Pessimistic About Progress In Coming Years

Most Black Americans think more police reforms are needed to ensure racial equality, but most are not confident it is not going to happen anytime soon, a recent poll shows.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows 70 percent of Black adults want more progress in racial equality in policing. Out of those who said more changes were needed, 49 percent are pessimistic the change will happen in the next few years.

Demonstrators hold “Black Lives Matter” signs in front of the US District Court in St Paul, Minnesota, on Feb. 24, the same day a jury found three former Minneapolis police officers guilty of violating the civil rights of George Floyd, the African-American man whose May 2020 murder sparked nationwide protests. (Photo by Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

“There’s more attention around certain issues and there’s a realization — more people are waking up to a lot of corruption in the system,” Derek Sims, a Black 35-year-old bus driver in Austin, Texas, told The Associated Press.

NORC Center surveyed a diverse group of 1,289 adults nationwide from Feb. 18-21. It found that despite the global protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd, few Americans believe there has been a recognizable change over the past 50 years in the treatment of Black people by police and the criminal justice system.

Overall, 38 percent of Americans say they don’t expect to see progress in the criminal justice system in the next few years, 33 percent are optimistic, and others said they had no opinion.

Sims said he considers himself more optimistic than pessimistic that change will happen, but he is concerned the country is too divided.

“People don’t really want to come together and hash out ideas,” Sims said. “There’s just too much tribalism.”

A similar poll conducted by NORC Center in June 2020 amid the uproar over Floyd’s death shows that more than two-thirds of Americans said that the criminal justice system needed either major changes or a complete overhaul.

An unarmed Black man, Floyd, was killed by Minneapolis police while in custody on Memorial Day. A witness caught his death on video.

Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges for Floyd’s murder. He was the first officer convicted of murder of a Black person in Minnesota.

“What we saw from the George Floyd case, we in the Black community know that those officers were found guilty because of the outcry,” DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, a New York-based nonprofit criminal justice reform advocacy group, told the Associated Press.

“The only reason why you get results is because there was an outcry that included Black and white people. You’ve got a much larger voter base saying something has to be done,” she said.

Some states and local governments launched initiatives and task forces to address racial equality in policing and other criminal justice reforms. Some states reduced sentencing standards and changed law enforcement misconduct reporting guidelines.

Still, numerous police shootings have been reported in the national media since the killing of Floyd. Time Magazine reported that from June 2020 to April 2021, on-duty police officers killed civilians at the same rate as the previous five years.

February’s survey also shows most Democrats, or 75 percent, say more needs to be done for fair treatment of Black Americans by police, while data regularly show around 80% of Black people identify as Democrats.

The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

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