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As debate still smolders over the Ferguson police department’s response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll shows a deep chasm between African-Americans and whites when it comes to confidence in police officers in their community.
Less than a third of African-Americans – just 28 percent - say they’re confident that police officers in their community treat blacks and whites equally, while seven in ten white respondents said the same. And just 40 percent of African-Americans said they trust that local police won’t use excessive force on suspects, compared to 70 percent of whites.
A racial gap persists over even the most general of questions. Asked how much confidence they have in local law enforcement when it comes to “doing a good job of enforcing the law,” eight in 10 white respondents – but just 58 percent of blacks -- said they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount.”
Not only is the gap striking, it’s also persistent. When pollsters asked the same set of questions in October 1995, the same month that O.J. Simpson was acquitted and Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March took place, the margins were similar.
In 1995, 62 percent of whites said they had confidence that police in their community treat both races equally, while 32 percent of blacks said the same. Also in the 1995 survey: 63 percent of whites were optimistic about their police force not using excessive force, compared to just 34 percent of blacks.