America’s mayors are experiencing a new sense of fear for their police officers that was not there a few years ago, according to a new survey.
Two years after the death of Michael Brown and the riots in Ferguson, and after multiple tragedies involving the killing of police officers and controversial police shootings of black men, the mayors of many American cities find themselves facing more anxiety in protecting their citizens and law enforcement than ever before.
More than half of the 71 mayors who responded to an anonymous survey by Politico Magazine indicated that they were “very worried about the safety of their black citizens” and 74 percent said they were worried about the safety of their police officers.
Though the mayors surveyed said their police departments’ relationship with minority communities was good, they still had serious concerns.
According to Politico:
How can mayors describe their officers’ interactions with people of color as good, then express grave concern at the issue? The dichotomy, two mayors told Politico during in-depth interviews, was suggestive of the difficult political line mayors must now walk. While the mayors recognize an obligation to stand with victims of police practices, the recent killings of police are reminder of the need to be everybody’s leader.
“My advice for mayors is, you better be a mayor for all of your city,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told Politico. “You better be a mayor for those who still feel there’s a gulf between them and their police department. And you better have the backs of your police officers who are your city employees, who are the face of your city and who we depend on for safety in our communities.”
The Democratic mayors were supportive of President Obama’s handling of the issue, with 73 percent saying he has handled it “well” or “very well.” But the survey results also indicated that Obama’s political responses may not sit too well with mayors who must grapple with the issues daily.
But mayors, in an interesting development, seemed to be cooling to Obama’s leadership on the issue—perhaps as they look more to local leaders and solutions than the bully pulpit in a time of crisis. From last year, the number of respondents who reported that Obama has handled the issue of race and policing “neither well nor poorly” jumped from 3 to 18 percent, and his approval numbers among mayors fell 13 percentage points, from 86 percent last year.
The survey also indicated that many of the mayors have not embraced the “Blue Lives Matter” and “Black Lives Matter” conflict.
“I think it does a disservice to everyone to simplify these things in such terms. The African-American struggle is much more complex than just Black Lives Matter, and blue lives,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “These things just have a tendency to create separatism. And that’s what worries me.”
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