Most Marylanders believe race relations in the state have worsened over the past few years, according to a new Goucher College poll released Monday.
The poll found that approximately 54 percent of both Blacks and Whites agree with that sentiment.
But when it comes to whether people of all races receive equal treatment by the police in one’s community, 79 percent of Blacks disagree, compared to 45 percent of Whites.
In terms of equal treatment within the state’s criminal justice system, 83 percent of Blacks and 60 percent of Whites don’t agree with that statement.
Police-community relations in the state moved to the forefront recently when Anton Black, a 19-year-old Black man from the Eastern Shore, died last month after an altercation with police. A state medical examiner ruled Black suffered “sudden cardiac death,” while the teen’s family hired an attorney and demanded a grand jury investigation.
“All of those issues have an underlying racial component,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher in Towson. “It’s really illustrative of how different Black and White Marylanders view some of these racial, or criminal justice issues, in the way police [and] the criminal justice system treat people in their communities.”
Kromer said conversation have circulated in the Maryland General Assembly on how to deal with criminal justice topics.
Delegate Erek Barron (D-District 24) of Mitchellville continues work on a partial expungement bill to eradicate charges that didn’t end in a conviction. The point of contention is the state’s “unit rule,” which prohibits law enforcement from expunging any charge regarding a particular case unless all the charges from that case are eligible for expungement.
Barron’s bill has the support of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, which frequently underscored the fact that Blacks make up 28 percent of the state’s population but 70 percent of its inmates.
The poll showed 69 percent of Blacks agree racial minorities face discrimination on the job or at work in Maryland. In comparison, 47 percent of Whites agree.
“These are great questions to ask because it gives you a snapshot of what people are thinking about, or what they’re aware of,” Kromer said. “But also see how people view the world. They have different lenses in which they view the world. You can see some clear differences between African American and White respondents on this.”
The poll also shows that 66 percent support increasing the state’s minimum hourly wage to $15 and 67 percent legalize marijuana for recreational use, similar to results of a September poll.
The Goucher poll, conducted Feb. 7-12, surveyed 808 respondents and has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.4 percent.