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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

Study measures racial attitudes toward police bias

In California and across the country, black and white Americans have distinctly different views of and experiences with the police and the criminal justice system. These differences were made clear in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. Notably, both black and white respondents agreed that black people are treated unfairly in the American justice system. While 87% of black participants said that blacks were treated less fairly overall, 61% of whites said the same. Roughly similar numbers said the same thing about unfair treatment by the police.

However, the respondents differed greatly in their assessment of the importance of the problem. While 79% of black participants said that the issue of racial mistreatment in the justice system is a very big problem, only 32% of white participants said the same. In addition, when asked to rate their feelings about police on a zero to 100 "thermometer," black adults' responses hovered around 47 while white adults' responses averaged to 72. These responses indicated a gap in experiences as well. While 9% of whites said that they had been unfairly stopped by police, 44% of blacks reported having this experience. For black men, this number reached 59%.

Black respondents also reported serious concerns about the way police engage with their communities. While 75% of white respondents thought that police used the appropriate amount of force when responding to issues in their neighborhoods, only one-third of black respondents could say the same. In addition, whites had a much higher level of confidence that brutal or corrupt police officers could be held accountable by the system.

Racial bias in policing can extend to arrests, charges and even sentencing and conviction. People facing criminal charges may work with a criminal defense attorney to challenge police evidence, uncover instances of bias and aim to avoid a conviction.

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