The Margin: Public confidence in police drops to new low following Tyre Nichols’ death, poll shows

Following the police beating and death last month of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, Americans’ confidence in police training has hit a new low, a new poll shows.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that just 39% of Americans believe police officers are “adequately trained to avoid the use of excessive force” — the lowest share recorded in the nine-year history of policing polls from these news organizations. The share of Americans who think police are adequately trained to avoid using excessive force is down from 47% in July 2020, and 52% in December 2014.

The poll sample included 1,003 U.S. adults and was conducted between Jan. 27 and Feb. 1, a few weeks after Nichols died, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Running parallel to that trend, the share of Americans who think police “treat Black and white people equally” has also taken a dive, the poll found. Just 41% of respondents said they think Black and white people are treated equally by police, down from 47% in 2020 and 52% in December 2014.

The poll results come after video footage showed Nichols being brutally beaten by several police officers during a traffic stop on Jan. 7. Nichols died from his injuries three days later.

Seven Memphis, Tenn., police officers have been disciplined as a result, including five Black officers who were fired last month and later charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. On Monday, Memphis Fire Department officials announced the dismissal of three emergency medical technicians who allegedly “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment” of Nichols.

“It’s like a never-ending nightmare,” Nichols’ older brother, Jamal Dupree, told CNN this week of his brother’s death.

Dupree said that despite the video of the traffic stop being made public, he won’t watch it.

“As soon as I saw the photos from him in the hospital, I already knew that they treated my brother like an animal,” Dupree said. “They beat on him like he was nothing. I don’t have to watch the video to know that.”

Nichols was pulled over by police for an alleged traffic violation after photographing a sunset on Jan. 7, according to accounts from his family. Nichols “succumbed to his injuries” from the officers on Jan. 10, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Memphis this week to attend Nichols’ funeral. Nichols’ parents are also slated to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week at the U.S. Capitol; it’s unknown whether Biden will address the incident, or police brutality in general.

During last year’s State of the Union, Biden said his solution to police reform was to “fund the police.”

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