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Thousands participated in a protest against racism and police brutality in August 2020 in Washington D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Roughly 60% of U.S. mayors acknowledge police violence is a "problem in their communities," but 80% believe their police departments "do a good job" attracting "well-suited" officers, according to results of the 2020 Menino Survey of Mayors published Wednesday.

Why it matters: Protests against police brutality have swept the nation since last May, when white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, a Black man, after kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The Black Lives Matter movement has since escalated calls to defund the police.

By the numbers: The survey, conducted annually by Boston University's Initiative on Cities, interviewed 130 mayors from 38 states last summer.

  • 68% of mayors believe Black people are treated worse by police compared to white people, but it splits by party: 73% of Republican mayors and 14% Democratic mayors believe police treat white and Black people equally.
  • 38% do not believe that police violence is an issue in their communities.
  • 69% believe protests against police violence were "forces of positive changes in their cities."
  • 56% of mayors are open to reallocating at least "a few" police resources to other parts of city government, though 80% believe their police budgets last year were "about right." 1 in 3 does not see the need to reallocate.
  • When asked about desired reforms, only 16% supported bigger structural changes.
  • Slight majorities recognize that lack of racial diversity and racism in the police force contribute at least "a little" to police violence.

The big picture: Black people are three times more likely than white people to be killed by the police, but 98% of police killings since 2013 have not led to any criminal charges, per Mapping Police Violence.

Cities at the center of last year's high-publicity protests have pledged reform to varying degrees and with mixed results.

  • Though a majority of the Minneapolis city council vowed to disband the police department in the immediate aftermath of Floyd's death, in December the council voted to cut only 4.5% from the 2021 police budget, which did not change the number of cops on the streets, according to Rolling Stone.
  • A settlement with Breonna Taylor's family requires Louisville, Kentucky, to provide housing credits for officers to live in the neighborhoods they police and grant only high-ranking commanders the authority to approve search warrant requests, AP reports.

What they're saying: "We need a comprehensive approach to reform, one that stresses transparency in operations, engagement with the public, an emphasis on values-oriented policing and the greater use of social services/mental health personnel," Inglewood, California, Mayor James T. Butts, a former police chief, said in a statement.

Methodology: The 2020 Menino Survey of Mayors uses a combination of open- and closed-ended questions to explore a myriad of salient local issues and policy priorities. The vast majority of interviews were conducted over the phone. This systematic sampling and recruitment effort yielded a representative sample of mayors of American cities with populations over 75,000.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

A new proposal to overhaul the Minneapolis Police Department

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Minneapolis Police Department would be replaced with a new entity responsible for "various public safety functions" under a draft ballot measure introduced by three council members.

What's happening: The proposed charter amendment would maintain a division with police officers but remove a requirement to maintain a minimum head count based on population.

Updated 23 mins ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.

Ina Fried, author of Login
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Column / Signal Boost

Microsoft's metaverse maneuvering

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Microsoft is pitching investors and regulators that its $68 billion Activision Blizzard deal is all about the metaverse, that nebulous buzzword taking the tech world by storm.

What they're saying: By my colleague Stephen Totilo's count, Nadella used the word "metaverse" at least five times in his conference call discussing the deal. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned the metaverse four times, while Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer used the term twice.