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Dysart Willis

Survey shows opposing viewpoints about police shootings

One of the biggest social issues currently facing our country is the tension between law enforcement and the public. Over the past two or three years, bystanders and witnesses have recorded numerous videos of police interactions (including here in North Carolina) that escalated quickly and has, on more than one occasion, ended in the death of a suspect. In some of these cases, the suspects were black and the officers were white.

While some argue that trust has eroded between police and the communities they serve, there is still disagreement about who is to blame. And the results of a recent, national poll show that police officers view the problem very differently than the general public does.

Pew Research Center recently polled about 8,000 police officers nationwide. According to the results of that survey, 67 percent believe that the high-profile deaths of African-American suspects are isolated incidents. Only 31 percent of officers believe they are signs of a larger problem. When it comes to the public protests that follow these shootings, 68 percent of officers believe that they are largely fueled by anti-police bias.

By contrast, 60 percent of the public believes that these fatal incidents are signs of a larger problem, and only 39 percent believe they are isolated incidents.

How can we, as a nation, solve such a serious problem when we can't even agree on its cause? How can the police and the public view the same issue so differently?

It is the job of criminal defense attorneys to protect the rights of the accused and to vigorously defend them against allegations brought by the government. But that cannot happen when a suspect does not survive long enough to even be arrested (let alone charged).

It is difficult to see how this gap will be bridged, or if it even can be. But in the meantime, if you are accused of a crime or approached by a police officer, please remember that staying calm and de-escalating the encounter could very well save your life. Once you are out of immediate danger, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.