Poll finds city-state divide when it comes to police perception and experience

Poll: 55%+ of Balt residents say they or a relative has been treated unfairly by police

City residents are more likely to say they or a relative have been treated unfairly by police than people living elsewhere in Maryland, according to a new poll by the University of Baltimore. They also have less positive views of the effectiveness and racial impartiality of police.

The telephone survey of more than 700 people in September found that just 22 percent of Baltimore City residents said police were doing a very good job in fighting crime in their neighborhoods, compared to more than 60 percent in the counties in the metro area and about 56 percent in the rest of the state.

About 12 percent of Baltimore residents said the police do a "somewhat bad job" fighting crime in their neighborhoods — roughly 10 percentage points more than the state or metro area respondents.

"It's very telling that this is a very different perception of what's going on with police," said Ann Cotten, director of the Schaefer Center for Public Policy, who presented preliminary results from the survey at a conference at the University of Baltimore Tuesday morning.

More than 85 percent of respondents in Baltimore City disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that police officers generally treat blacks and minorities the same as whites, compared to just over 50 percent in the state as a whole.

More than 40 percent of Baltimore City respondents said a family member had been treated unfairly by police, compared to 10 percent in the metro area counties and the rest of Maryland. And 15 percent of Baltimore City residents said they themselves had been treated unfairly by police, compared to 4 percent in the Baltimore metro counties and 8 percent in the rest of Maryland.

When asked about the most important problem facing the Maryland legislature, respondents in the state split the top priority fairly evenly among the state budget, crime, taxes, the economy and education, with each taking 11 to 14 percent — within the survey's margin of error.

Nearly 40 percent of Baltimore City respondents, however, said crime was the most important problem facing the legislature, with the economy coming in second at 11 percent. Just 3 percent of Baltimore City residents identified taxes as the top priority, a far lower percentage than for Maryland residents as a whole.

nsherman@baltsun.com

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