Just a quarter of Minneapolis residents hold a favorable opinion of the Minneapolis Police Department, according to a poll commissioned by MPR News, the Star Tribune and KARE 11.
The Minneapolis Police Department is unpopular across racial lines. People who identify as Republicans and older residents were more likely to have favorable views of the department.
Jasmine Elliston, who is Black, said the killing of George Floyd has changed how even her young children talk about police officers.
“‘I’m brown and George Floyd was brown, so that means they’re going to kill me, too?’” Elliston recalled her 4-year-old asking her. “The only thing I can do is be hopeful that my kids will grow up so they don’t tense up like many countless Black people I know when they see a policeman.”
The poll of 800 registered voters in Minneapolis conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling found that despite negative perceptions of the department as a whole, a plurality — 44 percent — say they don’t want the department cut or defunded. About two-thirds of the respondents had favorable opinions of Chief Medaria Arradondo. White people were slightly more likely than Black people to approve of Arradondo.
Some of the poll respondents expressed frustration with an arbitration process that they believe protects bad cops.
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The chief and Mayor Jacob Frey have said the state law allowing public sector workers including police officers to challenge discipline before an independent arbitrator has made it difficult to get bad officers out of the department. The Legislature passed a bill that takes away the ability of the parties to veto arbitrators, although it stops short of taking the right to appeal away from police officers.
Kyle Gardner, who is white and lives in southwest Minneapolis, said police officers seem to be held to different standards than others.
“If I screw up at my job, I don’t really get the opportunity to contest the firing,” Gardner said. “That’s kind of an extra benefit to the police department that other people don’t get.”
Two-thirds of the people surveyed, including 80 percent of Black respondents, thought Minneapolis police officers should be required to live in the city. An effort to repeal a state law blocking cities from requiring officers to live within city limits did not make it into the final bill at the Legislature, although lawmakers are allowing cities to offer incentives to officers who choose to live in the communities they serve.
Jon Kietzer, who is white and in his late 70s, said he thinks requiring officers to live in city limits would lead to better relationships with residents.
“If you know your police officers, you view them as friends, and you view them as people who are going to be helpful, and you go to them in time of need instead of being fearful of them,” said Kietzer, who held a favorable opinion of the department.
More than three-quarters of those polled said the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis has too much influence on whether police officers are disciplined or not.
Zarita Hester, who is Black, said she’s a union member herself, but that the police union has too much power to prevent reform in the department.
“I feel like a lot of officers want that change,” Hester said. “So I would say if the union changed their leadership, and actually took a deeper look at the policies that they're trying to put out and the conversation that they're having, I think that will go a long way.”
The poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy between Aug. 10 and 12 included telephone interviews with 800 voters registered in Minneapolis. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. It also touched on residents’ attitudes about the mayor and City Council, as well as plans to shift city funds from policing to social services.
A parallel survey of 500 Black Minneapolis voters was conducted between Aug. 6 and 12, allowing for a more robust comparison of the responses between white and Black voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.