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Poll finds strong support in Md. for police reforms

But respondents want more money for police, not to 'defund' departments

Bryan P. Sears//October 12, 2020

Poll finds strong support in Md. for police reforms

But respondents want more money for police, not to 'defund' departments

By Bryan P. Sears

//October 12, 2020

Steven Bagshaw, 45, was convicted Monday of theft over $1,000 and misconduct in office. (File photo)
A statewide poll of Maryland residents found solid support for a variety of proposals to require more training and oversight of police departments, but respondents balked at suggestions that police be “defunded.” (File photo)

Marylanders say they overwhelmingly are in favor of police reforms such as those being considered by state lawmakers, according to a new poll released by Goucher College.

The same poll, released Monday morning, also found that Gov. Larry Hogan continues to enjoy high public approval.

Mileah Kromer, director of the poll, said the survey also revealed a lack of clear sentiment about “defund the police” movements that have followed national headlines of cases of Black people dying at the hands of white police while in custody.

“Maryland residents are largely supportive of key police reforms that are currently being discussed by state lawmakers and have dominated our national discourse. Some of these proposals, like creating statewide use-of-force policies and requiring police officers to undergo racial bias training, earn support from majorities of Democrats and Republicans,” said Kromer. “But there’s a mixed message on police budgets. Residents support both increasing funding to hire more or better trained police offers and reducing police budgets to allocate more money to social programs.”

Key poll findings include:

  • 87% support creating a record of police misconduct cases that would be available to the public
    and other law enforcement agencies; 10 percent oppose.
  • 85% support requiring that criminal misconduct charges against police officers be investigated by
    an independent state prosecutor rather than by internal police affairs; 10 percent oppose.
  • 82% support requiring police officers to undergo racial bias training; 17 percent oppose.
  • 79% support creating statewide de-escalation and use-of-force policies for all Maryland police
    departments to follow; 16 percent oppose.
  • 79% support increasing funding for police departments to hire more or better trained officers; 19
    percent oppose.
  • 60% support banning police from using chokeholds or strangleholds when making an arrest; 35
    percent oppose.
  • More than 6 in 10 people said they had a favorable or very favorable view of both the police and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The poll of 1,002 Maryland adults  was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4. The survey has a margin of error of 3.5%.

The message is less clear when it comes to proposals to reduce police budgets. The poll found that 63% of those surveyed oppose the movement to defund the police.

Even so, the same poll found that 54% of those surveyed supported shifting money from police department budgets to social programs, including mental health, housing, and education programs, while 43% opposed.

The poll also found that Marylanders continue to approve of the job being done by Hogan, the second-term Republican governor.

Of those surveyed, 71% said they approve or strongly approve of the job being done by Hogan. The figure is the highest level of approval for Hogan in a Goucher Poll over the last two years.

More than six in 10 people said the state is moving in the right direction compared to 31% who said the state is on the wrong track.

The pandemic tops the list of issues at the forefront of the minds of Maryland residents. Three in 10 identified the COVID-19 virus as the most important issue facing the state followed by 22% who said the economy was the top issue. Education was third with 8%. Crime, education and the economy were frequently the top three issues in previous polls.




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