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One Year After George Floyd’s Death: Californians are Conflicted on Police Reform

Cal State Fullerton Study from an August Poll Shows Support for Activists and Reform
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As the nation marks the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death with continued activism and calls for social justice, a Cal State Fullerton criminologist’s report shows Californians are uncertain how they feel about police.

CSUF criminal justice professor Christine Gardiner’s new report about Californians’ perceptions of police and police reform offers an analysis of the poll conducted within months of George Floyd’s death. The study shows Californians are inconsistent in how they feel about police. Many see themselves “in the middle” — as supporting both police and racial justice advocates, not just one or the other.

  • There is consensus that police are respected (56.6% agreed), trustworthy (49% agreed), and effective problem-solvers. (49.6% agree). However, there is less agreement that police are fair and respectful to everyone (43.9%) and enforce laws consistently (40.6%).
  • Almost three-quarters (72.7%) of Californians support the protests seeking police reform and believe that reform is necessary. Yet, most individuals (49%) see themselves as supporting bothpolice and racial justice advocates, rather than one or the other.
  • Nearly one-third (30.8%) of Californians reported that they have been treated unfairly by police; and this experience negatively impacts their views of police, whether they think others will cooperate with the police, and their views on necessary reforms.
  • The reforms with the greatest support arede-escalation training (94.8%), providing body-worn cameras to all officers (93.7%), use of early warning systems (88.9%), decertifying officers for misconduct (88.3%), and banning chokeholds (79.8%).

Gardiner’s expertise includes research on California’s proposed AB-89, which would  require law enforcement officers be a least 25 or have a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree from an accredited college or university.

Her national study, Policing around the Nation: Education, Philosophy, and Practice, shows the role of higher education in policing. Nearly one-third of sworn officers in the United States are college graduates, with four-year degrees. Her statewide study confirms California has more college-educated officers than most places across the nation. 

Continue the conversation with Christine Gardiner at cgardiner@fullerton.edu. To schedule an interview with Christine Gardiner, please contact Cerise Valenzuela Metzger at cmetzger@fullerton.edu or 657-278-4856.

About Cal State Fullerton: The largest university in the CSU and the only campus in Orange County, Cal State Fullerton offers 110 degree programs, and Division 1 athletics. Recognized as a national model for supporting student success, CSUF excels with innovative, high-impact educational practices, including faculty-student collaborative research, study abroad and competitive internships. Our vibrant and diverse campus is a primary driver of workforce and economic development in the region. CSUF is a top public university known for its success in supporting first-generation and underrepresented students, and preparing all students to become leaders in the global marketplace. Our It Takes a Titan campaign, a five-year $200 million comprehensive fundraising initiative, prioritizes investments in academic innovation, student empowerment, campus transformation and community enrichment. Visit fullerton.edu.