Most U.S. Mayors Do Not Support Reallocating Police Resources, Survey Finds
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A protester hold a sign reading «Defund the Police» outside Hennepin County Government Plaza during a demonstration against police brutality and racism on August 24, 2020 in Minneapolis.
Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
Mayors also say they recognize the disparities in how Black people are treated by police with their white counterparts. Sixty-eight percent said they agree that the police treat white people better than Black people. But there is a sharp partisan gap, with 73% of Republican mayors saying that police treat white and Black people equally, compared to just 14% of Democratic mayors.
The mayors that responded to the survey are overwhelmingly Democrats. Just 20% are Republicans.
While most mayors acknowledged that Black people experience worse treatment by police compared with white people, 44% of mayors say they believe that Black residents in their city distrust the police.
The survey also found that most mayors surveyed opposed drastically reshaping the budgets of their local police departments, amid calls in some parts of the country to slash funding for police departments or to disband them entirely, redirecting funding to social programs. A large, bipartisan majority of mayors said that in their city, their police department’s share of the budget was «about right.» Just 12% said that the budget for their police department was too large.
Inglewood, Calif., Mayor James Butts said he believed that the slogan defund the police was «too simplistic» to solve what is ultimately a «multi-layered long-standing cultural and leadership issue.»
Butts, who is a former police chief, said in an interview that cutting funding for departments fails to address the root problem, and would mean that people in local communities are less safe.
Mayors were also asked open-ended questions about the short-term and long-term changes they would like to see to their police department. Most proposed reforms within the existing structure of their local police department.
«There was a small but sort of reasonably sized minority of mayors that really wanted to think about those bigger transformational changes, but for the most part, mayors proposed reforms that existed within existing structures,» said Katherine Levine Einstein, a Boston University assistant professor of political science who is one of the report’s authors.
«They thought more about, O.K., we have this police force, how can we maybe make it a little more diverse? How can we maybe change our training practices at the margins? So they thought more about what I would say are some of these more modest reforms rather than big, structural overhauls about what policing might look like in a community.»
Butts said that the root problem that needs to be addressed to improve police-community relationships is department culture, discipline and leadership.
«It’s got to be more than cosmetic attempts to do things like coffee with a cop and to say we’re engaged in things like community policing,» Butts said. «They can’t be schemes that say ‘Look, we’re doing this, so we’ve changed.’ You have to look inside at your culture, how you police, how you think, look at your complaints that you receive and use those as a barometer or guide as to what you need to do to change behavior or thinking in the department.»