The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association says a new public relations campaign that includes paid advertising will highlight the work officers do in their communities.
"Their whole desire is to make their communities a better place," said MPPOA Executive Director Dennis Flaherty. "I'm not sure the public understands that, so we're going to try to get that word out."
Flaherty said they're launching the effort after his members started raising concerns about the perception of police officers nationally. He said media scrutiny over police incidents in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Md., and North Charleston, S.C., has prompted his members to raise concerns.
"It can be very demoralizing for anybody that every story that seems to be coming out is negative," Flaherty said. "We could see where it was having a very negative effect and it was important for us as the state association to take the lead."
The MPPOA said it hasn't yet decided how much it will spend on the public relations campaign.
Flaherty also released an internal statewide poll that finds Minnesotans are comfortable with the jobs of their local police officers. The poll, which was conducted by Harper Polling on June 15 and 16, found that 85 percent of those polled say they trust "local law enforcement officers to use good judgment in their use of deadly force."
The poll of 450 Minnesotans also found that 79 percent said recent events around the country regarding violence involving police officers either did not alter their perception of law enforcement at all or very little.
"The results speak volumes about the caliber of officers that Minnesota has. I think it speaks about their training and the requirements that we have in Minnesota to become a police officer," Flaherty said, adding that his organization has never conducted a poll on this issue before because it's so difficult to determine whether the results have changed over time.
The Harper poll results stand in contrast to a recent nationwide Gallup poll, which found that while a majority of Americans remain confident in the police, that number is dropping. 52 percent of Americans expressed "a great deal" or "quite a lot of confidence in the police" — the lowest percentage since 1993.
Michelle Gross, with Communities United Against Police Brutality, cited the Gallup poll when she expressed skepticism about the MPPOA's campaign. She said the association should be focusing its efforts elsewhere.
"They need to stop worrying about PR campaigns and how to make people feel good about them. What they need to be doing is holding their members accountable so people have reasons to trust them," said Gross.
Flaherty said his organization also asked a few questions about the use of police body cameras but didn't release the results. The question over the use of police body cameras and who has access to the video has been a contentious issue at the Legislature. Lawmakers could not agree on the issue during the 2015 session.