Police union says voter survey shows support for BLM, but opposition to defunding LBPD

The union representing local police officers says it conducted a survey that shows Long Beach voters broadly approve of the Black Lives Matter movement but don’t support the group’s core goal of shrinking the police department.

The Long Beach Police Officers Association is circulating those results ahead of a City Council meeting this afternoon, when leaders are expected to discuss cuts to the police department’s budget.

The union has positioned the poll as a counterpoint to the repeated cries at town hall and City Council meetings to defund local law enforcement in the wake of massive Downtown protests in May and June.

“The driving force for us was to go out and get the scientific data,” Rich Chambers, president of the union, said about hiring a firm to survey 1,018 registered voters from Long Beach.

According to a summary of the research provided by Chambers:

  • 61% of those surveyed have a favorable opinion of the Long Beach Police Department, while less than 30% said they have an unfavorable opinion.
  • More than 60% said they have a favorable view of the “Black Lives Matter/Social Justice” movement.
  • Most respondents did not want to cut police funding, with 40% saying it should be kept the same and 26% saying it should be increased.
  • 35% of respondents said the LBPD has the right amount of officers. Almost 32% said it has too few and 16% said it has too many.

The survey, which was conducted by the Los Alamitos polling firm Candid Research Solutions, notes it has a margin of error of 3.1%.

Chambers said the survey was done by phone between Aug. 4 and Aug. 10. It was designed to control for the demographics of Long Beach’s registered voters, not necessarily the city’s overall population, which is about 42% Latino, 13% Black and 28% White, according to census data.

Chambers said survey respondents were 28% Latino and 12% African American. Broken down by political party, they were 17% Republican and 54% Democratic. By age, 31% of respondents were between 18 and 34; 23% between 35 and 49; 25% between 50 and 64; and 20% over 65.

Recently, the union has been rallying opposition to police department cuts.

A man holds a sign outside the Long Beach Police Officers Association headquarters as part of a caravan against police brutality on June 14, 2020. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

City staffers have proposed cutting $10.3 million from the department’s budget of almost $270 million. The cut would eliminate 34 police officer positions, but the city pledged to avoid layoffs by relying on attrition and backfilling and funding holes with sales tax revenue if needed.

Chambers contends the new survey shows voters generally support the calls for racial reconciliation that have swept the nation since the killing of George Floyd—but they also support police.

It illustrates “that they don’t need to be mutually exclusive,” he said.

However, defunding the police department has been a core demand of Black Lives Matter. Long Beach’s chapter of the group has specifically continued to press for action on that front.

“The public’s cry to ‘Defund LBPD’ speaks to the overdue need for the city of Long Beach to work with its residents to ‘Re-Imagine’ community safety and meet the basic needs of its communities,” BLM leaders wrote to the City Council last week.

Citing a list of people killed by Long Beach police, the group argued non-emergency functions like mental health, quality of life, crossing guards, gang intervention, homelessness services and youth programs must be shifted away from the department.

“The City of Long Beach has got to hold this police department accountable for the injustices they are responsible for, the racism they continue to perpetuate, and the violent offenses and brutalization they commit, and for the generational trauma historically plagued on our Black and Brown communities by the Long Beach police department,” the letter said.

The LBPD has proposed shifting some officer jobs to civilians as part of its new budget, for instance, hiring 16 “community service assistants” who would respond to lower-priority non-violent 911 calls that primarily end up being for property thefts.

That proposal has been particularly unpopular with the union; Chambers called it “a recipe for disaster.” And the recent survey, he says, backs him up.

According to the results he provided, “Less than a third (31%) of voters in Long Beach said they would be even somewhat comfortable with such a system.”

The City Council is set to discuss the police department’s proposed budget at 3 p.m. today.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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