New poll: 60% of Akron voters disagree with grand jury decision in Jayland Walker case

Made with Flourish

A majority of Akron voters disagree with the recent grand jury decision not to indict the eight police officers who fatally shot Jayland Walker last year, according to results of a new poll released Monday.

In the post-primary election survey of 500 registered Akron voters, 60% of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the grand jury decision.

Voters who supported Councilman Shammas Malik, who won the May primary election to become Akron's next presumptive mayor, were the most upset with the outcome, the most likely to say they're very familiar with the evidence in the case and the least likely to approve of the protests that followed.

New poll: Akron voters happy with results as women overwhelmingly elected Shammas Malik

Detailed poll results: Fill out this form to view the Akron Decides Post-Election Top Line Results

Malik spearheaded council's research and discussions around police reforms following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020, which sparked a national outcry for change. Following Walker's death, Malik helped author the charter amendment that 62% of voters approved to create Akron's first civilian police oversight board.

During a lunchtime event sponsored by the Akron Press Club, Malik was asked by Akron Beacon Journal Editor Mike Shearer if he also disagreed with the grand jury. His diplomatic response showed respect for the law, an agreement that justice was not served and an urgency to change the system to achieve that justice.

"As an attorney," said Malik, who got his juris doctorate from Harvard, "I have to respect the grand jury process. And the grand jury took all of this factual information and from the Ohio Attorney General's Office, and they made their decision about whether a crime was committed."

Malik also disagrees with grand jury decision

While he stressed that he is not mayor, yet, Malik said there doesn't appear to be enough evidence to warrant the firing of the eight officers who killed Walker, which is something people are demanding of him at protests.

He said he understands how the grand jury reached its decision not to prosecute the officers, especially with evidence that Walker fired a weapon during the police car chase.

"... This does not rise to the level of a crime that we could charge someone with and get a conviction," Malik said. "I understand that from three years of law school and a lot of reading. But on a deeper level, am I satisfied with it, which is what I think a lot of that number represents? No. I'm not satisfied with it."

From the day police released the first video of officers firing 96 rounds at Walker, Malik has called the incident a "systemic failure that requires change in policy, practice and culture. ... But I've also always said, the grand jury process is not going to deliver justice. Right? Justice will come when we all change these systems."

A third of respondents want "major" police reform and about a quarter want "total top-to-bottom" reform.

Only 22% of voters prefer more community support of police to any level of reform.

Made with Flourish

And the reforms measured in the survey speak directly to the circumstances surrounding Walker's death.

Grand jury decision: No criminal charges for 8 Akron officers who shot Jayland Walker

Akron voters want police to stop chasing non-violent offenders

Protesters pass the Summit County Courthouse, where a special grand jury decided to not indict the Akron police officers who killed Jayland Walker last summer, during a Justice for Jayland National March on May 24.

Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, initially led a single Akron police cruiser on a chase that began with an attempted traffic stop for a broken taillight — an issue that typically results in nothing more than a ticket.

Walker fled the stop and fired a round from his vehicle, prompting a "signal 21, shots fired" call on the radio that drew dozens of officers to the chase, which ended on foot with 46 of their 94 rounds hitting Walker.

Protesters have demanded an end to police chases. Some mayoral candidates and members of council agree. And so do 67% of voters in the survey who say police should not chase cars except when a violent crime has been committed.

The chase that ended with Walker's death began before he fired a round from his driver's side window.

Jayland Walker shooting: What we're learning from BCI investigation into Akron police shooting of Jayland Walker

Under the Akron Police Department’s Vehicle Pursuit Procedure, which was established Jan. 31, 2020, initiating a chase “must be based on the pursuing officer’s reasonable belief that the immediate danger to the officer and the public created by the pursuit is less than the immediate or potential danger to the public should the suspect remain at large.”

Akron voters overwhelmingly support de-escalation training

In a ski mask at night, Walker jumped from his rolling vehicle near Wilbeth Road and Main Street. Eight officers — including six with about two years on the force — opened fire as he turned toward them for a second time. Four officers unloaded their magazines.

In the survey of possible police reforms, more officer training on how to de-escalate confrontational situations got the most support at 83%.

In their own words: Akron Decides survey respondents explain stances on protests, police

More community policing, including police substations and foot patrols in neighborhoods, got 61% support. Sending social workers on some police calls, or what candidate Malik has advocated as the co-responder model on council and the campaign trail, got 54% support.

Made with Flourish

Public safety concerns continue to unite

Safety is the foundation for all other success, Malik has said.

Akronites appear to agree, with 54% citing public safety and crime as their top issue. The issue was also No. 1 in two previous surveys conducted during the election.

Public safety and crime are top concerns for 51% of Malik's supporters and just 39% of people who say they voted for Marco Sommerville, whose supporters expressed greater concern for economic development issues.

Protests, police response divide community

As recently as two weeks ago, Malik joined protesters who are still calling for justice after the state investigation and grand jury decision. The Walker family and their attorneys, who could still file a civil lawsuit, are demanding that the state release transcripts that would show what evidence was presented to the grand jury, and how it was presented.

Protests following the secret vote by the grand jury have divided the community.

May 24 march: 'The public deserves to know': Jayland Walker family attorney demands information release

About 45% of Malik voters, compared to 50% of all primary voters, approve of the political protests aimed at the city and the police department — “because (Walker and his family) deserved justice and protesting is letting them know we are not satisfied and need the city to do better,” as one respondent said.

About 23% of all voters overall, including a nearly identical portion of Malik supporters, disapproved of the protests, most often arguing that they lead to more violence.

The only voters more upset with the grand jury decision than Malik’s camp were registered voters who didn’t cast a ballot in the May primary. And 15% of voters said they or someone they know has protested the decision.

Voters are even more divided on whether police have responded appropriately to recent protests. Several arrested last summer during downtown protests that broke a city-issued curfew have since had their charges dropped or been found not guilty in court.

Protest on Copley Road: APD video shows Jayland Walker protesters throwing items before officers used chemicals

In a more recent protest on Copley Road, police deployed tear gas and pepper spray after individuals threw objects at officers, according to camera footage provided by the Akron Police Department.

Views on whether police have responded appropriately are almost evenly divided into thirds between voters who approve, disapprove or have no opinion.

About the poll

The Akron Decides Post-Election Survey of 500 voters, conducted by the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research, was commissioned by the Akron Press Club, Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, Akron NAACP, Ohio Debate Commission and Akron Beacon Journal.

By the numbers: A visual look at Akron Decides poll on Malik, police and protests

The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Registered voters were surveyed May 4 through May 17 online and over the phone, including landlines and cellphones.

Reach reporter Doug Livingston at or 330-996-3792.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron voters disagree with grand jury decision in Jayland Walker case