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Poll finds Minnesotans trust local police; activists question methodology

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The majority of Minnesotans approve of the way their local police force handles its job, according to a new poll paid for by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Association (MPPOA).

The poll, conducted by Harper Polling, found that 90 percent of Minnesotans approve of the job their police officers are doing. Harper Polling interviewed 450 registered Minnesota voters via telephone on June 15 and 16 to get the results.

MPPOA Executive Director Dennis Flaherty commissioned the survey to see if the negative publicity involving police officers around the nation has had an effect on Minnesotans' opinions of local police, KARE 11 reports.

The results are being called "overwhelmingly positive," the news station notes.

Here's a look at some of the numbers:

  • 85 percent of those polled say they trust local law enforcement officials to use good judgement in their use of deadly force.
  • 86 percent say their interactions with local police have been mostly positive.
  • 79 percent say recent violent incidents involving police officers around the country had little or no effect on their perception of law enforcement.
  • 91 percent say they feel safe where they live.

"Let's face it; cops in Minnesota do a good job," Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the MPPOA, said during a conference call, according to the Star Tribune. "They buy into community involvement, they buy into community policing. They have for a number of years."

The MPPOA plans to use the poll results as part of its public relations campaign to spread the word about the positive things police do in their communities.

Minnesotans more positive than nation

The results from the MPPOA's poll are much more positive than the latest Gallup poll, conducted earlier this month, which found that 52 percent of Americans had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in police – that's the lowest mark since 1992.

The Gallup poll found that respondents who were black or from low-earning households had lower confidence in police.

The MPPOA poll didn't break down the results by race, but Flaherty told the Pioneer Press that support for officers "wasn't quite as high in some of those communities of color," but remained strong.

Activists question poll results

Activists, however, say the poll doesn't give a complete picture of Minnesotans' attitudes toward police, noting 83 percent of respondents are white, while only 26 percent live in an urban area.

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), noted that respondents also had to be registered voters, which limits the diversity of those polled, the Star Tribune says.

A post on the CUAPB's Facebook page claims, in part, the MPPOA "manipulated their survey to get the results they wanted," and accused the media of "downplaying" the poll's issues.

Teresa Nelson, legal director with Minnesota's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, voiced similar sentiment, telling KARE 11 that while a lot of people do trust their law enforcement, some problems – specifically Minnesota's racial disparities in arrest rates – are "not something that a survey of 450 registered voters will tease out."

The ACLU recently released a report highlighting the racial disparity in arrests in Minneapolis, with a study finding people of color are nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for a low-level crime than their white counterparts.

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