Vargas: Respect for law enforcement near an all-time high

By Joe Vargas

In the midst of all the political rhetoric involving polls this year, you may have missed one poll that signaled a dramatic change in public attitudes.

According to a Gallup poll published Oct. 24, public respect for law enforcement is the highest its been in nearly 50 years.

According to the polling data, 76 percent of those surveyed said they had a “great deal of respect” for the police in their area. This was just one percentage point below the all-time high of 77 percent recorded in 1967.

This was a dramatic shift from last year’s poll, in which 64 percent said they had a great deal of respect for the police. Gallup Chart Data 2016

What was the explanation for the dramatic shift in public perception?

According to Gallup, the widespread media attention surrounding the targeted murders of police officers in Baton Rouge, Dallas and other cities has swayed public perception.

It took the murder of police officers for some people to appreciate who police officers really are.

It seems the only time people really see the person behind the badge is during heart-wrenching eulogies and funeral services.

It’s then we learn how truly special the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice really were.

We learn they were someone’s beloved spouse. They were someone’s special child. They were a child’s mommy or daddy.

We learn they were much more than police officers.

They were dedicated members of the community. They were coaches and Sunday school teachers. They were military veterans and mentors.

These murdered officers were, in fact, extraordinary people.

In my nearly five decades of being in and around law enforcement, this is the norm.

Sure there is room for improvement and there is still work that needs to be done — specifically in regards to connecting and engaging with minority and disenfranchised communities.

The same poll showed a significant discrepancy in the perception of policing when race was taken into account.

Only 67 percent of non-whites surveyed said they had “great deal of respect” for police in their area. However, this was a 14-point increase over the previous year’s polling.

In the same poll, only 7 percent of those surveyed said they had hardly any respect for the police.

With such overwhelming numbers, it is disheartening to see how that 7 percent dominates the media coverage.

It would be great if the majority would just turn up the volume a bit.

There are a lot of men and women wearing a badge who would appreciate it.