LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Nearly 25 years after four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the Rodney King beating – which led to massive civil unrest – Angelenos still trust the LAPD more than any other local institution, according to a new survey.
Researchers with the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University found that most residents believe the LAPD is more likely to “do what is right” than government officials at federal, state, and local levels, as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Department of Water and Power, the news media, labor unions, religious institutions, or residents’ neighbors.
While white and Asian American residents are far more likely to view the LAPD “through a positive lens”, African Americans in Los Angeles largely perceive the police in negative terms, according to the survey.
Among official groups, the LAPD rated highest, with nearly 60 percent saying the police would do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time.”
The DWP wasn’t far behind with about 57 percent, while only about 46 percent of respondents thought the LAUSD and labor unions would do what is right the majority of the time. Religious institutions (nearly 54 percent) and the amorphous group classified as “Your neighbors” (53 percent) also ranked relatively high.
The institution least trusted by Angelenos? The news media, which nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of respondents said does what is right “none of the time.”
Responses to the survey varied widely along racial lines: nearly 70 percent of white and Asian American respondents believed police would do the right thing, compared with 54 percent of Latinos and 39 percent of African Americans.
Fernando Guerra, professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies and director of the Leavey Center, said the findings could point to a ray of hope for the LAPD.
“While the LAPD has had its share of serious issues, the one constant over the last two decades has been efforts by its leadership to mend fences and build relationships with the people of Los Angeles, especially minority communities,” Guerra said. “Our survey shows the effort has not been wasted, but that more work must still be done.”
Despite the progress, nearly 6 in 10 Angelenos also said they expect another riot similar to the 1992 unrest, marking the first increase after 20 years of declines, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The survey was conducted among 1,200 Los Angeles city residents by telephone and online in January and February with a margin of error at about 3 percent.