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Survey: Police believe public does not understand risk law enforcement officers take

"Behind the Badge" Survey

EL PASO, Texas - One of the largest surveys ever conducted of police officers has revealed that recent events, including the shooting of black Americans by police and the protests that followed, have made the job more difficult.

The Pew Research Survey, called "Behind the Badge," involved nearly 8,000 police officers across the country.

One of the more interesting questions and responses: "Does the public understand the risk police officers face?"

Only 14 percent of the officers say the public understands these risks well, while 83 percent of the public says it does understand those risks.


Sgt. Ron Martin, president of the El Paso Municipal Police Officers Association, told ABC-7 those numbers don't surprise him.

"That's why we do what we do, so the rest of the public doesn't haven to deal with what we deal with," Martin said. "Most citizens look at law enforcement and it's either watching a TV show or watching the news and they see a very limited amount of what we do realistically. They don't realize really what we do unless you are in our shoes."

Here's another interesting response from the behind the badge survey, which asked whether fatal encounters between police and blacks have made policing harder. Eighty-six percent of officers agree that it has made policing harder, while 93 percent of them admit to being more concerned about their safety because of what has gone on over the past year.

"I don't believe that our officers are more tense in El Paso in concerns to dealing with a white person versus a black person versus a hispanic person," Martin said. "I think nationally it's a little bit more scary. In the past you didn't have that concern of just being there and somebody trying to execute you. So it has brought a heightened sense of awareness to us."

The survey also asked officers how many of them have actually fired their service weapons during the course of their career outside training. Seventy-two percent said they have never fired their weapon outside of training, while just 27 percent said they had at least once in their career.

"The public believes that we're some type of gun happy officers, that we shoot all the time and we don't," Martin said. "In 26 years in the department, working downtown, working special operations and kind of all over the department, I have never fired my weapon on duty at a suspect ... Period."

Another question asks how many officers have been thanked by the public in the past month and how many have been verbally abused in the past month. Seventy-nine percent said they've been thanked by the public in the past month, 67 percent said they've been verbally abused and 55 percent said they've had both experiences.

"It depends on where you work and what shift you work," Martin said. "Every once in a while you'll get someone who flips you a finger or says something derogatory, calls you a pig or calls you bacon or makes some stupid comment."

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