Poll shows majority of New York residents trust police and approve of officers using body cameras

ITHACA, N.Y. – More than six in 10 New York state residents – 64 percent ­– have a high level of trust for their local police department – and the more interaction citizens have with their local police, the more they trust area law enforcement, according to the latest Cornell University Empire State Poll.

Despite a majority of New Yorkers trusting their local police, the level of trust varies by age, race, income, political party and geography. “I’m a little surprised by the numbers. I was expecting there to be larger differences in attitudes toward the police by the varying demographic characteristics of the respondents,” said Yasamin Miller, director of the Survey Research Institute and the Empire State Poll.

Among black New York state residents, 77 percent report a high- to medium-level of trust, while 23 percent report a low level of trust for local police. Similarly, 76 percent of Hispanic or Latino residents report a high to medium level of trust, while 24 percent have a low level of trust for police. Fully 85 percent of Asians in the Empire State have high to medium levels of trust for police while 15 percent have a low level of trust. Among whites, 88 percent report high to medium levels of trust for local police while 12 percent report low levels of trust. Among Native Americans, 74 percent report high to medium levels of trust for local law enforcement while 26 percent report low levels of trust.

Impressions of police become more favorable with age: Slightly more than half – 56 percent – of state residents aged 18 to 24 years report favorable impressions of police in this country. The share of favorable impressions of law enforcement increases to 61 percent among residents aged 25 to 34 years, and to more than 70 percent of all state residents aged 35 years and older.

Favorable impressions of police also increase with income: Residents with a household income of more than $100,000 were more likely (78 percent) to report having a favorable impression of the police in this country than residents with a household income of less than $30,000 (63 percent).

The poll also found an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers agree that police officers should wear video cameras while on duty.  Overall, 87 percent of state residents agree with the idea of having police officers wear body cameras – with no significant differences by race or whether one lives Upstate or Downstate.

The poll also finds that trust of police is directly proportional to interaction with police: “The more interaction you have with the police, the more likely the interaction will be positive. I think many police departments around the country already know that it’s important for them to interact with their communities in order to establish trust,” Miller said.

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.