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Police Reform Efforts Vastly Popular In Maryland, Poll Finds

Rachel Baye

A new poll from Goucher College shows widespread support for the kinds of police reform policies Maryland legislators are expected to introduce in January. 


More than 80% of those polled said they support making records of police misconduct public and having an independent prosecutor investigate police misconduct cases. Nearly 80% said they support creating statewide rules for when police officers are allowed to use lethal force. 


However, the poll results also yielded some “mixed messages,” said Mileah Kromer, director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center and the poll. More than half of those polled said they support reallocating some of police departments’ budgets toward social programs related to mental health, housing and education, but the phrase often used to describe that idea — “defund the police” — only garnered support from 28%.


“For advocates, it matters greatly, how they talk about their issues,” Kromer said. “Public opinion gives you the snapshot, and it's up to advocates to appropriately, I think, contextualize what the policy means in practice.”


Kromer pointed to the responses to another question in her poll. When asked whether they support “increasing funding for police departments to hire more or better trained police officers,” 79% said they do.


“I think what the public wants is better policing, and so it’s going to be left up to the advocates to decide and discuss how they can get there,” Kromer said.


The poll results also show that Gov. Larry Hogan has maintained his strong approval rating. More than 70% of Marylanders polled said they approve or strongly approve of how Hogan is handling his job as governor, and 63% said things in the state are headed in the right direction. Both numbers reflect increases in support since Goucher College’s February poll. 


When asked about the most important issue facing Maryland today, more than 30% said the coronavirus pandemic, and 22% said economic issues. Kromer said this is the first time in her years of polling Marylanders in which at least 30% of respondents offered the same answer to the question.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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