A New Poll Finds That Most California Voters Want Police Reform

Most also generally trust police—but it’s not a ”blind trust”

After nearly three months of protests following the killing of George Floyd, a new poll from UC Berkeley reveals that the vast majority of California voters support sweeping reforms in law enforcement.

Among the most popular changes examined in the poll were measures that would make it easier to sue and prosecute cops, redirect some law enforcement money toward mental health and social work, and to limit the bargaining power of police unions, even as a majority of respondents said they were at least somewhat satisfied with their local police departments.

The poll—conducted via email in English and Spanish from July 21 to July 27 among 8,328 registered California voters—found that 80 percent of respondents favored making it easier to prosecute officers for excessive use of force, 78 percent supported a ban on choke holds, 70 percent want civilians given the right to sue cops for misconduct, and 61 percent think unions should see their collective bargaining rights diminished.

Eric Schickler, co-director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, which conducted the poll, told the Los Angeles Times, “The data suggest that there’s widespread public concern about police practices. For many voters, that does not translate into a simple condemnation of police but a more nuanced position that reforms are needed.”

Co-director G. Cristina Mora added that while most Californians still trust their local police, it is “not a blind trust.”

Lt. Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League says that while he doesn’t think police unions should have less power than other public sector unions, he would like to see some police duties shifted to other agencies. However, he told the Times, he still hasn’t seen anyone who is pushing for a “re-imagining” of community policing present a plan as to how those changes would be implemented.

“They’ve put the cart before the horse,” Lally said.

The poll data indicates that Los Angeles County residents have a more critical view of police than in other parts of the state. For instance, in Orange County 50 percent of respondents said they were “very satisfied” with the police, compared to 26 percent in L.A. Statewide, 63 percent of those polled had a favorable view of Black Lives Matter and 70 percent said that Black people were more likely to experience police violence than white people, while those figures in L.A. were 67 percent and 72 percent, respectively.

The polling also shows that residents’ feelings about the police are sharply divided along racial lines.

While 74 percent of white people, 64 percent of Latino people, and 72 percent of Asian people and Pacific Islanders said they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their local police, 50 percent of Black people said they were satisfied. And although a majority of voters of all races across the state agreed that black people are more likely to experience police violence (70 percent of white people, 67 percent of Latino people, and 75 percent of Asian people and Pacific Islanders), 92 percent of Black people felt that way.

Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, told the Times that the numbers were “stark” but not surprising.

“Those who most experience police corruption, abuse and violence are Black people,” Abdullah said. “We’re the closest to that, so we have the highest levels of dissatisfaction with police.”

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