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Seattle police approval rating improves, issues of race persist

A survey by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research found that 64 percent of those interviewed either on the phone or otherwise approved of the department. (AP)

People are looking at the Seattle Police Department in a more favorable light than they were two years ago.

A survey by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research found that 64 percent of those interviewed either on the phone or otherwise approved of the department. That’s up from the 60/34 rating the department received in 2013.

A total of 692 people were interviewed over the phone. Surveyors spoke with an additional 67 Latinos and 141 African-Americans to help ensure fair representation.

Related: Anti-cop Times feature lacks important context, says Jason Rantz

But there are still issues within the department, according to the survey. Four percent of Seattleites believe they were the victims of racial profiling in the past year. That’s identical to 2013. Those who say they were profiled include 10 percent of Asian-Americans, 9 percent of African-Americans, and 6 percent of Latinos.

“African Americans’ and Latinos’ experiences have gotten better in the last two years,” the survey says. “But they are still not the same as whites or Asian-Americans.”

Though the survey makes an effort to highlight the groups who have become more supportive of Seattle police by setting the numbers out in bullet-points, it’s the group that isn’t in the list that is of most concern. The “most notable group” that has not “warmed” up towards the department is African-Americans, according to the survey. The approval rating decreased from 49 percent to 48 percent since 2013.

And there’s probably reasons for that high level of disapproval. Just take a look at who gets stopped while driving a car. According to the study, African-Americans are “far more likely” to be stopped in their car; 28 percent in the last year. That’s a far higher number than Asian-Americans (19 percent), Latinos (18 percent), and Caucasians (13 percent). African-Americans and Latinos are also less likely to own a car, which means the per-mile-rate that they are stopped is even higher than results suggest.

That information might be one reason why 55 percent of everyone surveyed believes the department engages in racial profiling.

Despite the reports of negative interactions, however, formal complaints are low. Statistically, the 23 percent in 2015 is no different than the 28 percent in 2013.

With the data in mind, the surveyors note that Seattleites overwhelmingly want body cameras on officers. Eighty-nine percent support the idea.

Exactly what Seattle police can do to continue to improve their reputation is still a problem to be worked out. The survey says community engagement helps improve the public’s perception of the department, which has been damaged by reports of unnecessary use of force. The survey is a method to measure how successful the department has been since it signed a consent decree after the Department of Justice found that officers continue to engage in unconstitutional use of force.

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