Posted on February 1, 2021

Mayors Largely Support Black Lives Matter Protests

Business Wire, January 27, 2021

In spite of months of protests in reaction to George Floyd’s murder and other instances of police violence, roughly four in ten of America’s mayors do not believe police violence is an issue in their cities, according to this year’s Menino Survey of Mayors, the only national representative survey of America’s mayors conducted annually by Boston University’s Initiative on Cities.

Despite this, mayors largely recognize racial disparities in the way police treat their constituents. Two-thirds (68%) believe that Black people are treated worse by police compared with white people; however, there is a large partisan gap with 73% of Republican mayors believing that police treat white and Black people equally, compared with only 14% of Democrats. Despite mayoral concern about racial inequality in police treatment, 80% of mayors believe that their police departments do a good job of attracting individuals well suited to being police officers.

Mayors also largely supported last summer’s protests; just over two-thirds (69%) believe the protests against police violence were forces of positive change in their cities. But they are mixed when asked whether Black people mistrust the police; less than half (44%) believe that Black residents distrust the police—a number that persists across party lines.


When it comes to calls by many activists to “defund the police,” a majority (56%) of mayors are open to reallocating at least “a few” police resources and responsibilities to other parts of city government—including social services agencies—though only 5% support reallocating “many.” One in three mayors do not see a need to reallocate any resources and responsibilities. Additionally, mayors overwhelmingly (80%) believe their police budgets last year were “about right.” When asked an open-ended question about desired police department reforms, just 16% support bigger structural changes. Instead, many supported a wide variety of smaller reforms to their police departments, including increasing diversity on their police forces and civilian review boards.


Roughly 60% of mayors surveyed acknowledged police violence as a problem in their communities, with slight majorities saying that a lack of racial diversity (52%) and racism (51%) among the police force contribute at least “a little” to police violence. Other top drivers of police violence include qualified immunity for police officers (40%) and police unions (38%).

“The words ‘Black Lives Matter’ are both a statement of fact and a demand – one that not only unites mayors across the country, but also millions of Americans coast to coast who protested following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year,” said Otis Rolley III, Senior Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative. “Mayors are in the position to lead the fight for meaningful racial equity, which includes rooting out discrimination in police treatment, as well as real investment in communities of color. {snip}”