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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.

Swing voters oppose Texas abortion law

Protesters at a rally at the Texas State Capitol. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

All 10 swing voters in Axios’ latest focus groups — including those who described themselves as "pro-life" — said they oppose Texas' new anti-abortion law.

Why it matters: If their responses reflect larger patterns in U.S. society, this could hurt Republicans with women and independents in next year's midterm elections. The swing voters cited overreach, invasion of privacy and concerns about frivolous lawsuits jamming up the courts.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden bombs with Manchin

Then-Vice President Joe Biden conducts a ceremonial swearing-in for Sen. Joe Manchin in 2010. Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call

President Biden failed to persuade Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to agree to spending $3.5 trillion on the Democrats' budget reconciliation package during their Oval Office meeting on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Defying a president from his own party — face-to-face — is the strongest indication yet Manchin is serious about cutting specific programs and limiting the price tag of any potential bill to $1.5 trillion. His insistence could blow up the deal for progressives and others.