A majority of Minneapolis residents are critical of the Minneapolis Police Department months after the killing of George Floyd, but Police Chief Medaria Arradondo's approval rating remains high, according to a new Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll.
Two-thirds of registered voters in the city sample said they have unfavorable views of the department, according to a citywide poll conducted last week. Only 25% had a favorable opinion of the Minneapolis police.
However, most continue to support Arradondo, who became the city's first Black police chief in 2017. More than 60% said they had favorable views of the chief, with 15% saying they had an unfavorable opinion of him.
The findings come as the department remains under intense scrutiny following the killing of Floyd, an incident that touched off worldwide protests against racism and police brutality. Some Minneapolis City Council members are pushing to create a new public safety system in its stead. Arradondo has pledged to make internal changes, and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has launched an investigation of the department.
The poll was conducted for the news organizations by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc., which surveyed 800 registered Minneapolis voters last week, including 146 Black voters. In addition, 354 more interviews were conducted with Black registered voters in the city, for a total of 500. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5% for the sample of 800 registered Minneapolis voters, and the margin of error for the sample of 500 Black Minneapolis registered voters is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Calvin Littlejohn, a 47-year-old executive of a construction company, said the police have treated Black people like him unfairly and aggressively his entire life. He's seen police officers beat his friends, pull over Black drivers with their guns drawn and even beat and arrest his fiancé.
"As we've watched time and time again … it is apparent there is a racial problem inside the Minneapolis Police Department," Littlejohn said.
However, he said he supports Arradondo, who gave him hope for change.
"We stand the greatest chance of being able to make some kind of improvement if there is a minority who is running the organization, who … is dealing with the same kind of discrimination issues that minorities deal with," he said.
Several roadblocks persist, including a police union some city officials believe has turned increasingly partisan under the helm of Lt. Bob Kroll and kept the department from pursuing meaningful reform. Nearly 80% of voters polled believe the union has too much influence over the disciplining of officers accused of misconduct.
The board of directors of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said it is not surprised by the results because "city leaders have eagerly pointed blame for their own failings" at police officers. The police union said the department has been underfunded for years, which has delayed response time, pushed officers to work long hours and caused pervasive morale issues that have "finally burst into the open."
Kathy Keenan, a 54-year-old marketing communications manager, said Arradondo was working to implement change but was held back by the union. She believes there should be an easier way to get rid of officers accused of misconduct.
"There's only so much he can do because I think there's a lot of protection that's provided by the union," Keenan said. "It's very difficult to get rid of officers that are not behaving the way we would like them to."
Union officials have supported the grievance and arbitration process for officers, which has often led to terminated officers getting their jobs back. Last week, the department revealed that a Minneapolis officer who was fired for decorating a Christmas tree with racist items was back on the force after an arbitrator overturned the chief's decision.
Mayor Jacob Frey has called the arbitration process a "gigantic blockage in getting us to a place where we can see that necessary culture shift." The city has continued to negotiate with the union over a contract despite Arradondo withdrawing from the talks.
Two-thirds of people also said officers in the department should be required to live in Minneapolis. That percentage was greater among Black voters, with 80% saying they should live in the city. Now, only about 7% of officers live in Minneapolis.
Pam Spencer, a 30-year-old administrative assistant, said officers are too quick to use force, especially toward Black people. If they lived in the city, they would get to know the people they're serving and change their perspectives of the community, she said.
"If you're coming from Elk River and coming all the way to Minneapolis to do your job, of course you're going to feel a type of way about different people," said Spencer, who is Black.
"We know we're around predominantly white people, so we know what to do," she said. "They should be the same way toward us when they come to our neighborhood."
Littlejohn said officers driving in from the suburbs breeds an "us vs. them" mentality and takes taxpayer money out of Minneapolis. By living in the city, he said, "you are connected to the community you're supposed to protect and serve."
State law says no city can require that a person live in the city where they work "except for positions which by their duties require the employee to live on the premises of the person's place of employment."
White residents were more supportive of Arradondo than Black residents, with 67% viewing him favorably as opposed to 56%. Among Republicans in Minneapolis, 73% of those polled said they support the department, and a majority said officers should not be required to live in the city.
Age was also an important factor. Fully 80% of respondents 18 to 34 had unfavorable views of the department, as compared to 56% of those 50 to 64 years old. Younger voters were also less supportive of Arradondo, with 40% viewing him favorably.
There were few distinctive variances in the poll among gender or education.
Dozens of officers have left the force in recent weeks, and many more have taken medical leave for post-traumatic stress disorder. Meanwhile, homicides, robberies and shootings have all increased from last year.
When Floyd was killed, feelings of anger toward the police escalated, Spencer said. She took to the streets, participating in protests outside the Third Precinct.
"There's no consequences against them. That's why people are so mad," she said. "No matter what, the lawyers are always going to cover them up."
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753