Los Angeles burst into flames a quarter-century ago this week during riots that were based in part on a belief that its police force was biased.
Now Angelenos trust the Los Angeles Police Department more than any local institution or government, according to a Loyola Marymount University survey released Wednesday. At the same time, a majority believe another riot will break out in the next five years.
“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,” said Fernando Guerra, director for the LMU Center for the Study of Los Angeles, author of the study.
“Our survey shows the effort has not been wasted, but that more work must still be done.”
The center has conducted its Los Angeles Public Opinion Poll every five years since the riots that began on April 29, 1992, killed more than 55 residents, injured 2,400 more in three days of looting and caused fires that inflicted more than $1 billion in damage.
The 1992 Los Angeles Riots erupted after the acquittal of four white police officers who beat black suspect Rodney King.
In a telephone and online poll of 1,200 residents conducted in January and February, center researchers asked whether police and various agencies could be trusted “to do what is right.”
The LAPD rated highest among choices that included federal, state and city governments, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Los Angeles Unified School District, labor unions, the news media and religious institutions.
Nearly six in 10 residents said the LAPD would do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time,” according to the survey. Only one choice, one’s neighbors, scored slightly higher.
Trust of Los Angeles cops, however, varied among different racial and socioeconomic groups:
–Among white residents, 69 percent said the LAPD would do what’s right.
–Among Asian residents, 69 percent agreed; among Latinos, 54 percent did so.
–But among African-American Angelenos, only 39 percent said cops could be trusted to do the right thing.
The trust level was also highest among upper-class residents (67 percent), versus middle-class (61 percent) and the lowest class (48 percent).
In one sense, the data tell us something we already knew in Los Angeles, said Brianne Gilbert, associate director of the center. Even after years of outreach and building bridges, different ethnic groups have widely varying relationships with the police.
“A lot has improved,” Gilbert said. “A lot of time, effort and resources have been spent making the LAPD live up to certain standards, of being held accountable. Everyone wants a police department they can trust.”
The LAPD did not respond to a request for comment. But its police union praised the survey results in light of recent criticism from Black Lives Matter of LAPD use of force.
“Contrary to what anti-police activists want the public to believe, Los Angeles residents trust and respect police officers, and this survey validates the tireless work our thinly-staffed Police Department performs every day to protect Angelenos from rising violent crime,” said Dustin DeRollo, spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
The question of institutional trust was a first in the center’s 20-year survey.
The survey, conducted around the inauguration of President Donald Trump, also found that residents trusted the news media least, with nearly one in five saying the media does what’s right “none of the time.”
While Angelenos put more faith in law enforcement, they placed less faith in their fellow residents, according to the survey.
Nearly six out of 10 residents said another riot like that of 1992 was likely to erupt within five years — 11 percentage points more than five years ago. The pessimistic outlook was the strongest since the poll was published in 1997.
Young adults who didn’t experience Los Angeles of 1992 pegged the likelihood of another riot at nearly 70 percent, while those 65 or older put it at 50 percent.
Researchers placed the blame on tensions connected with Trump’s election coupled with a polarized dialogue on race due to police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.
“One of the explanations is, looking at social media, it’s so much easier to understand what’s going on,” Gilbert said. “People are not operating in a bubble.
“What this says about Los Angeles is, there is a concern that something can happen — (that) there could be a tipping point for a riot.”
(c)2017 the Daily News (Los Angeles)
Visit the Daily News (Los Angeles) at www.dailynews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.