Twenty months after the killing of Breonna Taylor, Black and white residents of the city of Louisville, Ky. have widely contrasting views of police and racial equity, according to the latest Suffolk University/USA TODAY CityView poll.
Taylor was killed in her apartment by police during a botched March 2020 raid. Asked how the fatal shooting influenced their opinion of policing and racial justice in Louisville, 61% of Black residents said they had less faith in the police after the killing, while just over 40% percent of white and Hispanic residents said the incident had caused them to lose faith in the police force.
The CityView poll shows that 60% of Black Louisville residents feel they are treated differently than residents of other races, while poll respondents of other races were far less likely to report different treatment.
At the same time, most Black residents of Louisville (62%) said they do not support “defund the police” movements and 36% of Black residents (and 61% of white respondents) said the local protests that followed the Taylor killing “hurt the community.”
The latest in the Suffolk University/USA TODAY CityView poll series examined opinions on race and policing among residents of Louisville and Oklahoma City, Okla., in a series of phone interviews conducted in mid-November. Throughout 2021, the CityView series has examined public sentiment in several major American cities, including Milwaukee, Detroit and Los Angeles.
Black Oklahoma City residents were only slightly less likely (57%) to report a perception of different treatment based on race than the Black residents of Louisville were, but in both cities there was division on race in assessing police tactics.
Sixty-two percent of Black Louisville residents said the police used force when it wasn't necessary, while only 38% of whites did. In Oklahoma City, 51% of Black residents said police used force when it wasn't necessary, while only 29% of residents of other races did.
Residents in both cities said they were worried more about rising crime than police misconduct.
In Louisville, residents were more than twice as likely to cite public safety, not police reform, as the biggest issue facing the city. In Oklahoma City, police reform ranked last on a list of nine community concerns.
A comparison of these views may give insight into why police reforms have proven elusive even in the wake of last year's nationwide protests after George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis.
“I believe that localized research, exemplified in the Suffolk/USA TODAY CityView project, is underutilized as a tool to help understand and solve race-related issues in the United States,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Responses from residents in these cities are essential to shedding light on real problems and how they can be solved.”
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