Angelenos Back Dramatic Reforms to Police Operations, Split on Trust in LAPD, LMU Survey Finds

Los Angeles would be better served by diverting nonviolent emergency calls to teams of LAPD officers paired with social and mental health professionals rather than only the police, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.

The majority of those surveyed also said some of the police department’s budget should be redirected to other local programs, and that civilians should have the right to bring lawsuits against individual police officers for misconduct. 

“What we see from these results is a population in Los Angeles that has been moved by recent activism here and around the country,” said Brianne Gilbert, associate director of StudyLA. “Coupled with the LAPD’s history of high-profile incidents involving officer misconduct, the movement to defund police has prompted more Angelenos to reconsider their support for the department’s status quo.” 

A vast majority of respondents — 82 percent — said they want to see unarmed response to nonviolent calls in Los Angeles. Sixty-two percent called for moving some of the LAPD’s budget to other programs, and over a third said they would endorse a plan to completely dismantle the department. 

Interestingly, 51 percent of those surveyed said the LAPD can be trusted “to do what is right” just about always or most of the time. That number was higher than those who said they trust city government (44 percent) and the news media (41 percent). 

But those trust numbers split heavily along racial lines. Majorities of white and Asian respondents said they trust the department, while Black and Latina/o residents went the other way. In fact, 30 percent of Black respondents said they trust LAPD to do what is right “none of the time.” 

“Even though a majority of Angelenos say LAPD is doing well in certain areas, this wide gulf in perception between racial and ethnic groups does not bode well for the department’s efforts to address fears and suspicions that, in some communities, date back generations,” said Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and Chicana/o and Latina/o studies at LMU and director of the center. 

StudyLA researchers conducted focus groups and interviews with activists and community leaders to develop the survey questions prior to beginning the survey. Funding for the survey came from the Los Angeles Police Department, the ECMC Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation. 

The survey was conducted by telephone and online August 31 to October 25, 2020, to which 1,753 city of Los Angeles residents responded. It was translated and administered in Spanish, Mandarin and Korean, in addition to English. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 percent. 

The full report can be found here.