Not Everyone Thinks Stop and Frisk Is Racial
Our reader survey suggests racial and gender gaps when it comes to thoughts on police and profiling.
(The Root) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a black congregation in Brooklyn last weekend that stop and frisk, the controversial police strategy of questioning and searching passersby, "saves lives." Critics beg to differ, arguing that stop and frisk is a violation of civil rights and a thinly veiled version of racial profiling that overwhelmingly affects black and Latino males.
As high-profile opponents of the practice -- including NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous and the Rev. Al Sharpton -- prepare for a silent march in the city on Sunday to protest, The Root surveyed 148 readers ages 18 and older about their perceptions of police and racial profiling and what to do if stopped and frisked. The sample is too small for the results to be considered scientifically valid, but the results are illuminating nonetheless.
Most striking was how perceptions of police officers and their motives differed between black and white respondents. Nearly 28 percent of whites professed a positive view of police, 22 percent had a negative view and 50 percent were neutral. And while the majority of whites surveyed agreed that stop-and-frisk policies were a pretext for racial profiling, they were far more likely to disagree with that statement than blacks -- 30 percent vs. 3 percent.
When it came to identifying the factors that might affect a person's likelihood of being stopped and frisked, race was the most popular answer across the board, but blacks were more likely to choose gender as a factor than whites were, while whites were more likely to choose clothing as a factor.
The majority of those who took our survey are on the side of Sunday's marchers: 86.5 percent believe that stop and frisk is not an adequate crime deterrent, 75 percent believe that police unfairly target certain racial groups and 89 percent believe that stopping and frisking innocents is a civil rights violation. And about half, regardless of race, said that their parents had talked to them about what to do if stopped by police.