Police Perception and Race
A recent poll provides interesting insights.
The folks at Axios have commissioned a poll, the visualization of what tops the post. Managing editor David Nather supplies some context:
Nearly seven out of 10 Black Americans say police treatment has gotten worse in the past year, and about the same percentage believe police shootings of Black and brown youths have become worse in that time, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll.
The big picture: The poll, conducted a year after George Floyd’s death, suggests that the relationship between Black Americans and the police not only hasn’t improved, but is a profound and escalating crisis.
Two things immediately struck me. First, the question wording is simply abysmal. What does it mean to say that shootings have improved or worsened? Second and more importantly, presuming we’re simply trying to get a sense of whether police are shooting more young Black or brown folks, that’s a matter of data collection, not opinion.
What we’re really doing here is testing the degree to which media coverage of police shootings has changed people’s perceptions. And, pretty much across the board, we see that is has. Which, given how much of it there has been, is hardly surprising.
More interestingly, other questions not highlighted in the headline or the graphic of the report tell us something more valuable.
Most Americans still have a positive view of police and law enforcement. But that’s not true of Black Americans. Just four out of 10 said they have favorable views of police and law enforcement, while 57% said they have unfavorable views. By contrast, 69% overall — including 75% of white respondents, 64% of Hispanic respondents and 65% of Asian respondents — said they have favorable views.
It’s not super shocking, of course, that Blacks have a less favorable opinion of police than whites–although I would not have guessed the contrast quite this stark. And I’m genuinely surprised that the Hispanic experience is much, much closer to white (and essentially identical to Asian) perception. Granting that “Hispanic” is a broad category, it actually calls into question the conflation of Black and Brown in the featured poll question.
Between the lines: Seven out of 10 Black respondents said they’ve been pulled over by the police, slightly less than the 83% of white respondents who said they’ve been stopped. (For Hispanic and Asian respondents, the numbers were 54% and 58%.) But once they’ve been stopped, 14% of Black respondents and 9% of Hispanic respondents said a police officer has taken a gun or taser out of its holster, compared to 4% of white respondents and 2% of Asian respondents. And 40% of Black respondents and 31% of Hispanic respondents said more police officers have arrived on the scene during the stop, compared to 22% of white respondents and 13% of Asian respondents.
There’s also a strong sense that the stops are unreasonable. More than half of all Black respondents — 56% — say they’ve been pulled over for a reason they thought was unjustified or wrong, compared to 41% of Hispanic respondents, 32% of white respondents and 22% of Asian respondents.
These numbers are a bit harder to parse. Whites are more likely to report having been pulled over by police than any other group. Is that a function of being more likely to have a car? But, certainly, the perception of fairness and the likelihood to have police draw a weapon is vastly different.
And, while this isn’t a new finding, the percentages are rather stark:
The distrust is so severe that many people of color don’t see calling the police as a viable option in an emergency. 55% of Black Americans and 40% of Hispanic Americans said calling the police or 911 often does more harm than good — a view shared by just 25% of white Americans and 25% of Asian Americans. And when they see a police car in their neighborhood with its lights or siren off, 44% of Black Americans say they feel anxiety — either mostly fear or a mix with some anxiety — a view shared by 38% of Asian Americans, 33% of Hispanic Americans and 23% of white Americans.
When large subgroups of the society feel like calling the police is dangerous, we have a serious problem.
Still, I can’t help but think there’s really something weird going on with this poll. In particular, I can’t square the Hispanic affinity for the police with the reported lived experience. They have a positive view of cops comparable to that of Asians are yet report being unfairly pulled over and having weapons pointed at them at a far, far higher rate. Are they’re much more afraid to call police.
When I read the question, these came to mind.
There are times when polling can be edifying regarding the thoughts of the populace, but for that to occur, job one is for the questions asked to make sense.
I’ve been stopped only three times in the last 10 years. All thee times, I had a black friend in my car with me driving one of my Porsches. All three times I was pulled over having done noting wrong. Literally nothing.
First time, they claimed my registration tag was on crooked, which made them think it was a phony tag. Despite having my registration, Insurance, and license all in order, we were taken out of the car and searched. They then asked to search the car, to which I said I do not consent. They did it anyway because they said “they smelled cannibus”. Bullshit.
Second time, 2am, a Thursday night/Friday morning, driving a co-worker back from, driving through Agoura (a nice suburb, almost all white), pulled over in my 911 – again for no reason, other than I have a black guy in the passenger seat. We were taken out at 2am, made to sit on a curb while they went through the car without consent. 35 mins later, with my shit in the street, they said we were free to go. No apolgies or any sort of acknowledgement of a mistake.
Third time, driving my Cayenne with two black guys in the car with me, heading TO work at 7:15am, pulled over again for supposedly speeding. I don’t speed. Additionally. I have a camera in my car that covers the dashboard and out the front window. I todl the offcer i’d be able to prove I wasn’t speeding. That threw him, and I was let off with a warning.
None of this happened in the hood. I’m in the hood all the time shooting our show. These events all happened in white suburbs.
I don’t doubt those stats at all. If my experience is such, as a successful TV Producer who has some resources available to him, what’s it like for those who don’t?
I agree that the question is badly phrased. I will also note that for the people who are going to be burning down the precinct after the next George Floyd has his neck knelt on for 10 minutes, (or the next Philandro Castile is shot at a traffic stop for that matter) the question of police violence against citizens is going to be profoundly perceptual irrespective of what the data crunchers say the data reveal.
Stupid poll, guaranteed to produce stupid answers.
The noisiness of polling on Hispanics is pretty common, I suspect because the category of ‘Hispanic’ doesn’t mean much. Gathering up Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, various Peruvians, Chileans, Bolivians, Colombians, Venezuelans and Argentinians and the occasional Spaniard, some white, some Black, some of them just arriving in-country, some half a dozen generations in, into a group just because they all speak, or spoke, or had parents who spoke Spanish, creates a meaningless category.
The whole concept of intersectionality in which Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, trans, and progressive women form a block to confront the white power structure is not going to work. The largest minority now is Hispanic – however that’s defined – and the fastest-growing minority is Asian, and aside from being ‘not white’ I’m damned if I see the common ground.
Black in this country is its own thing with its own history, there is no real commonality of interest between random Black Person W and Hispanic Person X and Asian Person Y and Transgender Person Z. The more likely future is one where this phony grouping splinters and if anything become opponents.
What @just nutha said, but also it might be interesting/useful to know whether the perception matches reality.
I wrote a snarky Tweet the other day in response to ‘anti-white racism’ trending, pointing out that if I drive my Mercedes through Beverly Hills not a single cop will think to pull me over to make sure I, you know, belong there. It’s like they don’t even care.
I tell the story of my friend, Paul Downs, who while working with me at ABC Television in 1988, bought himself a nice used Mercedes 450SL convertible. Nice car back then. He lived in Sherman Oaks, and worked in Century City, so he had to go over Coldwater Canyon or Benedict Canyon through Beverly Hills to go to work every day. He sold the car in less than two months because he was stopped an average of twice a week, every effing week. Every. Week. Four times he was late because they held him so long searching for something to charge him with. But Paul’s only offense was being black in Beverly Hills.
Yes, Paul was African American.
The Stanford study supports the perception of the Black community – at least with regard to traffic stops
The study “Finding” page has some interesting graphs – in some places, Hispanic drivers are treated more like White, in others, more like Black.
I remember when Henry Louis Gates Jr was arrested for breaking into his own home. Gates is like the most upper-class Harvard guy imaginable. I mean, if you saw a guy trying to break into a mansion in Greenwich and he was dressed in a bespoke suit and had the Locust Valley lockjaw, you would see think he owned the house or he was a world-famous jewel thief or something. But that cop was just like this guy from Harvard could be anybody at all, just a homeless guy trying to get money for drugs. With black people, the cops have a right to forgo any sort of thought whatsoever.
The other numbers aren’t exactly good. We accept a lot of mediocrity with the police. When crime goes up, nobody can blame the cops. Chicago’s murder clearance rate is like 50%. Teachers are criticized for everything. But the police can’t solve crime for reasons which have nothing to do with their aptitude.
I suspect even white people aren’t even that supportive of the police outside of the political angle. It’s partly not the fault of the police. The war on drugs is just a failure. The cops kick in doors to find the source of meth or heroin and they shoot somebody by accident or they don’t. But nobody thinks that nabbing the dealer means anything. It’s just a number.
I doubt that they really are, though. I’ve been cited 5 times–one driving while 17 (the officer “paced” me as going 75 mph down a residential street), 2 failures to stop at stop sign, once related to a collision, and one radar set up in a school zone (where people were complaining that the city only said “going to fast” but not how fast and the city subsequently pulled the cameras).
I’ve never been pulled over to have my car searched–at all. Or for having a broken bulb or tail light lens. Or on suspicion of driving a car with a bogus license plate or tab. Or for having failed to signal a turn. Or any other of the hundred “infractions” that give the officer grounds to conduct a “routine” inspection/illegal search of the vehicle. I attribute what’s never happened to having been born white and looking upper middle class enough to be able to afford private counsel. As to why whites get stopped more? We’re probably way more careless given that a traffic stop is mostly no big deal–nobody’s gonna arrest/shoot me, after all.
@Michael Reynolds: “not-white” isn’t much of a grouping, but “regularly faces discrimination” is.
That breaks down as each group begins to gain acceptance, though — they don’t want to be lumped in with those people. It basically only works for as long as white folks’ discrimination against two groups is more than each groups discrimination against the other.
That isn’t to say the Blacks are more likely to support gay rights, but that Blacks are more likely to vote for politicians who are also seeking the support of gays and apply notions of freedom and equality broadly.
I expect that what will happen soon is that Asians or Latinos will be unofficially declared White, and many will switch to voting to keep the Black man down, or for lower taxes, or …
Well, to be fair, if the cops are gonna engage in profiling by stereotype, I’d guess that “successful white TV producer driving a fancy sports car in LA” presents a pretty on-the-nose (*cough*) example of someone likely to have some drugs on them, so maybe it was about you all along! /s
I’m honestly shocked the numbers there are so low. I’m an upper-middle class white guy who’s never had a truly negative interaction with a cop – stopped and questioned or cited a few times, but never unfairly – but I still tense up a bit when I spot a cop nearby because I know that between the loose Terry standard and the fact that we’re basically all breaking some law or another at almost any given time, that cop has enormous leeway to screw with my day (or my life) if he feels like it for whatever reason. The main thing preventing that from happening isn’t my legal rights or formal constraints on the cop’s authority but rather just his mood and character (which are unknowns) and the institutional/cultural norms about arbitrary police stops.
Its a busy day at Code for America, so I’m not going to have a chance to dive into this poll until much later.
My reactions, James, mirror most of yours in terms of the poll’s construction. First, it’s an absolutely abysmal question. I think the question that they were trying to ask does go beyond measuring “media” impact and is trying to get at a certain cultural issue.
Likewise, the issue of “Hispanic” is a huge issue (especially as it’s as much an ethnicity as a race and therefore can skew the results pretty badly, same issue with lopping a huge section of the world’s population into the generic “Asian” category). For our survey work, we’re increasingly allowing folks to select multiple ethnic groups from a wider range of categories to allow for more accurate analysis.
Honestly, I think you also identified the most important findings here:
And those are all pretty consistene with other surveys on policing.
As to why whites get stopped more? We’re probably way more careless given that a traffic stop is mostly no big deal–nobody’s gonna arrest/shoot me, after all.
Asians were basically lumped with white til Trump decided to shit on them. As a Democrat, thank you, Donald. As the father of an Asian, fuck you, Donald.
My experience is that the last several times I was pulled over I *was* doing something wrong, or in one case shaving it.
A moment of clarity on that came to me as I waited at a red light at the entrance to a long, two lane on-ramp onto the 101 in Sausalito. Me: old bald white dude in black Mercedes convertible. Pulled up beside me: old bald Black dude in a BMW convertible. Clearly a drag race was called for. Just as clearly, it would have been an unfair race – I had nothing to fear from the CHP, and he did.
I was pulled over twice for speeding in Tiburon, both times the guy let me go because I admitted I’d been speeding. CHP did pop me coming over the Nevada border near Tahoe. Pleasant and friendly interaction, and I got a ticket. Couple hundred bucks – meaningless to a guy in a Benz, crippling to some guy in a rusted out Dodge Dart (me 25 years ago). It’s not all about race, class also plays a role in the unfairness of driving in America. If you’re both Black and broke driving is a very different experience.
Shaving what, exactly?
(Sorry, but I was powerless to resist.)
It’s done through polling, because law enforcement is actively obstructing the data collection:
FBI says new data on police use of force is coming this summer
@Michael Reynolds: “Shaving what, exactly?”
A yellow light.
Slightly off topic:
I vividly remember sitting in a hotel in Pittsburgh having breakfast and listening to the guy at the next table complaining to his friend. Now… I was making shit wages as a journeyman electrician–and paying my own hotel (we got business rates, but still…. ). The guy complained that “[his] red Ferrari got way more tickets than some guy driving a Ford.”
My thought was “Maybe if you weren’t driving around in a billboard that screams “I’m a filthy-rich douche” that might not happen so often.
Is this the same IPSOS Polling that shows 61% of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Donald Trump (just 28% disagree) and 53% of Republicans believe that Donald Trump is the true president right now?
Because those are some whacky beliefs going on over there in the “Not-a-Cult”.
@Michael Reynolds: Even just “black” is different (I assume, not knowing from personal experience beyond the one driving while 17 incident), but black and poor is certainly the “driving is different for” daily double.
Haha. Except that I’m Latino, not white. 🙂
Where I grew up it was known that cops would beat on you with no provocation.
Especially if you were black.
It never happened to me directly but I witnessed it and saw it with my own eyes several times. Once, the dude was being a jackass. Twice just because cops wanted to whale on somebody.
A friend of mine was raped by Minneapolis cops. Very close friend. My girlfriend.
I got no respect and no abeyance for them. Thugs in blue. My willingness to side with them is zero.
We need a better system now.
Defunding the police is a bad name for a great policy.
We want people who can resolve a mental health crisis that does not result in someone being shot or smothered. Cops are not the folks you want resolving that crisis.
You want them around, but not as actors there.
Traffic policing can be done by folks whose first instinct is not to shoot first (or rape the victim).
Until this rash of anti-Asian violence (or at least news coverage), I thought we pretty much had accepted Chinese and Japanese ethnics as “white”. Yes, Republicans will eventually let Latinos, or at least “white Hispanics” be “white”, as they have Scandinavians, Germans, Irish, Poles, Italians, etc.. That’s what their 2012 post-mortem told them to do. Cruz and Rubio seem to be headed there. Darker Hispanics and south Asians may still be outside their tent.
Blacks are 12 or 13% of the population. Hispanics are around 18%. Asians are less than 6%. Non-Hispanic whites are about 61%. The Republican strategy seems to still be to depend on a smaller, but more motivated base, which seems to be like 35-40%. They may not be able to get away with this much longer. The standard establishment response is divide and conquer. In terms of numbers and popularly perceived difference, white Hispanics are the obvious opportunity to expand the base. If they succeed, life will be harder on Blacks, who I fear will be the last group accepted as white. Maybe not until we have robots to abuse. The obvious and normal conservative establishment response is divide and conquer.
For reference, the Jewish population of Germany in the 30s was less than 1%. Republicans need to either change course or expand their definition of the volk. And the kids seem to be pretty much OK. The GOPs know they have a limited window before it’s too late to turn us back into a “white” nation state.
Finland bases fines on a percentage of income. Many years ago a board member of Nokia famously got a 116,000 Euro speeding ticket. Makes sense to me. Why should the punishment for the same offense be a pain to me, but life changing in a bad way for someone else?
I expect the very explicit “China Virus” that Trump and his lackies were throwing out about a year ago to the day have a strong bit of fault and direct action resonance.
It was not Covid-19 but the “Chinese Virus”. Chucking gasoline onto that fire thank you very much Stephen Miller. Xenophobia always helps during a crisis, thanks a lot, fucker.
My 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata (turbo, aggressive suspension and tires, “corners like a cat on carpet”) only came in silver or red. Despite my usual rule about not owning pavement colored cars, we got silver because red sports car.
I strongly support Finnish fines. Import it here.
Here, fines and fees are a direct attack on people of color and “undesirables”. Ethnic cleansing by financial inducement. It is in your best interest to leave is the message many Americans get from their local government.
White people get a different message.
Silver was the right choice.
Traffic laws mostly exist so cops can fuck with you freely if you are undesirable.
And to goose the local governments budget.
Guess who gets pulled over more? A perfect circle of administrative shunning. Make life intolerable for poor people of color. This is a direct consequence of the “broken window” policing strategy. Make your poors want to leave just to put your fascist authoritarian shit behind them. Local policing became a race to the bottom. We want to export our poors and POCs to the next jurisdiction.
That is wrong on multiple levels.
It would appear their strategy is to go for Culturally Conservative, which attracts a non-trivial percentage of new ethnic minorities in the USA, both Asian and the entirely incoherent (as Michael points out) Hispanic/Latino category that exists as a singular political category by all data purely in the imaginations of White Lefties who conflate the urban Caribbean Latine populations of the East Coast as telling them what Latinos are.
The performance of the Republicans in the last election down-tickets rather suggests that not only for white Hispanics but broadly among male Latinos they have the capacity to gain just enough votes along with Asian etc. in many States to achieve their aims, while the US Lefties continue to count their proverbial ‘brown chickens’ before they hatch.
And yes US Lefties continue to delude themselves in this area.
While Bernie Sanders did not play very well in his old 60s NYC Lefty approach to campaign rhetoric embedded in his demarche is probably a wise lesson for the US Left – betting heavily on Lefty-Cultural politics with dreams of brown base is likely a route to continued disappointment and relative failure. Deemphasis of Activist Cultural – Identatarian politics, greater emphasis on bread-and-butter politics to keep a larger percentage of the non-college Whites (but also probably Latinos) with economic moderation to not scare off the professional / suburbanite class seems rather a better play.
That’s not what intersectionality means.
Hispanic is more noise than actual category though. I was surprised to learn that at the school where I teach about 30% ID as Hispanic and less than 5% ID as Asian. I learned later that the reason for this was that most of our Filipino students IDed as Hispanic. I’m not sure that identification would be similar in CA or LA.
My last name is a Hispanic last name… or is it?
I’m Dominican, which is definitely Hispanic/Latino.
Yet the country with the most people with my last name is The Philippines, not any Spanish speaking country.
I definitely get that. The Philippines have a, let’s say, complicated history geographically, linguistically, and ethnically.
Geographically are they Asian or Pacific Islander?
Linguistically most of their languages are more Malayo-Polynesian, but there is definitely some influence from Spanish and then American colonizers.
Ethnically, again there is some combination of Asian, Pacific Islander, Spanish, and others.
What threw me this time was that most Filipinos that I have lived and worked with over the years have not IDed as Hispanic and when called to ID as one big sub head or another on a form, have chosen Asian.
Really though, Filipinos ID as Filipino, Japanese as Japanese, Chinese as Chinese, etc, rather than as Asian.
When people here talk about their ethnicities the often list out 3-6, sometimes 8.
@Gustopher: For people not living it, it’s easy to step back and look at things dispassionately and with separation. For those living it, it’s personal, perception is reality.