Black New Yorkers Want Increased Policing Despite Eric Garner’s Death?

How do we explain these poll results? Political education, internalized racism, age and socioeconomic status can affect African Americans’ attitudes toward law enforcement. 

A demonstration in New York City on July 19, 2014, against the death of Eric Garner in police custody on Staten Island two days earlier. 
A demonstration in New York City on July 19, 2014, against the death of Eric Garner in police custody on Staten Island two days earlier.  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

According to the weekly magazine The Nation, “There were 4.4 million stops by the NYPD between 2004 and 2012. Ten percent of those stops were of Whites, 84 percent were of Blacks and Latinos. Of those 4.4 million stops, only 6 percent led to an arrest, 6 percent to a summons. The remaining 88 percent resulted in no other action—in other words, they involved unequivocally innocent people.”

In the first quarter of 2014, 81 percent of those stopped under stop and frisk—which falls under the broken-windows umbrella—turned out to be innocent of any wrongdoing, and 83 percent of all people stopped were black or Latino.

And with black men being three times more likely to be killed by police officers than white men during an encounter, the question arises: Why would black voters in New York City want a heavier police presence in their neighborhoods if that reality is more likely to lead to more brutality and black deaths?

“If [we are to] assume the study is reliable, then you have to ask, ‘What black people?’ Generally, more middle class and professional people will prioritize protecting property,” said Arlene Eisen, the author and primary researcher of Operation Ghetto Storm, a frequently quoted study on the extrajudicial killing of black people. “Then, you need to consider the level of political education of whoever responded to the survey. This includes what a lot of people call ‘internalized racism’—where black people learn a lot of the same views of themselves as whites. Unfortunately, there is very little in the education system and corporate media to counter the hegemonic status of white supremacy.”

“What black people,” indeed. Older black people are more likely to be registered voters than younger black people, and in populations most affected by police brutality—low-income, black communities—access to a landline or cellphone is not assured. When reading these results, one also has to take into consideration the disenfranchisement restrictions placed on black voters on parole.

That said, it is important to note that some police officers enter into encounters with black people with not only their own racist, preconceived notions of intrinsic black criminality, but also with the support of a judicial system that absolves them of responsibility and accountability while also disproportionately incarcerating black people for low-level, nonviolent crimes.

As Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper, stated, “As a black person, I want to have less encounters with the police rather than more friendly encounters,” she said. “There is a level of power that they have that is rarely used for the safety of people who look like me, and is much more often used to antagonize people who look like me.”

That is the entrenched fallacy of broken-windows policing. And though the results of the Quinnipiac poll interrupt the racialized narrative that African Americans are disproportionately anti-police, they also seem to show a disconnection between the desire for safe neighborhoods closely monitored by police and the reality that overpolicing tends to traumatize rather than benefit black communities.

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