CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One year after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the protests that followed in uptown Charlotte, few people in Mecklenburg County think race relations are getting better.
A WBTV, Charlotte Observer and Elon University poll released Tuesday found that just seven percent of people think race relations are better than they were before the shooting occurred and twenty-nine percent of those surveyed think relations are worse.
Scott was shot and killed by an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in the parking lot of his town home in University City in September 2016 . Prosecutors determined the shooting was justified. Investigators said Scott failed to drop the gun he was holding after repeated demands from officers. The killing led to protests in the neighborhood the night of the shooting and those protests then moved to uptown Charlotte the following nights. The unrest turned violent and then-Governor Pat McCrory called in the National Guard to restore calm. In the wake of the protests, city leaders vowed to tackle issues like income disparity and affordable housing.
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"(The results) say Charlotte voters are pretty pessimistic about the the last year," Jason Husser said, who is the poll director for Elon University.
The poll found the majority of Mecklenburg County residents (58 percent) think race relations are the same as before the shooting. Husser said his pollsters, after seeing what most people were saying, began to ask the a follow-up question.
"Well, it's about the same, is that a good thing or a bad thing? People overwhelmingly said it was a bad thing that they are the same," said Husser. "Race relations are on the minds of Charlotte voters and they are not happy about the state of things."
The poll also found that there is no real racial or gender divide when it comes to the race relations issue. Nearly 7 percent of all those demographic groups say relations are better.
There were differences, however, when people were asked whether they thought CMPD officers treat racial minorities fairly. Overall, 47 percent think some groups are treated better than others, while 33 percent believe racial minorities are treated fairly. Forty-six percent of white people in the survey say all groups are treated fairly compared to just 13 percent of blacks. There is also a divide by generation. A majority of millennials, 57 percent, believe some groups are treated better than others while just 21 percent of the "silent generation," who are those who were born before 1945, feel the same. Husser says those findings are fairly consistent with what is seen across the country.
Despite those differences, a vast majority of city and county residents would like to see more oversight of the police department. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed think the Charlotte Citizens Review Board (CRB) should have the power to require police to testify before them in cases of police misconduct.
The CRB hears citizen complaints on cases that involve alleged violations of CMPD rules on various topics including the use of force, unbecoming conduct, search and seizure and profiling.
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Husser said the survey made it clear that race relations are top of mind for many Charlotte voters.
"It does seem that we see more sensitivity and more awareness of the (race related) questions and the issues because Charlotte has dealt with unrest related to race relations," said Husser. "So, its not surprising to see at least heightened awareness heightened salience of race relations in the community."
The survey also asked whether the city of Charlotte should change the name of streets, like Stonewall Street, which are named after Confederate leaders. There were calls to do so following the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. Sixty-four percent of voters don't think the streets should not be renamed while 25 percent think they should be renamed.