(NEW YORK) MintPress — Another day, another blow to the reputation of New York’s finest. A new poll by the New York Times reveals that a large majority of New Yorkers believe the NYPD under Mayor Michael Bloomberg favors whites over blacks.
Eighty percent of African-American residents see the police as favoring one race over the other, while 48 percent of white residents agree. Overall, 64 percent of New Yorkers said the police favored one race over the other, a steep rise from the early years of the Bloomberg administration, when less than half of residents agreed with that sentiment.
The figures indicate that the view is as widespread now as it was in 2001, the final year of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s tenure, when race relations were far more tense.
Last year, the police stopped nearly 700,000 people on the street, 85 percent of whom were black or Hispanic.
A majority of African-American residents, found the poll, said the tactic had led to the harassment of innocent people, although most white residents regard stop-and-frisk as an acceptable way to improve urban safety.
Many of those surveyed had experienced discrimination first hand. A fifth of the respondents said they had been stopped by a police officer because of their race or ethnicity, and almost all were black or Hispanic, and more likely to be young and male, although the use of stop-and-frisk on minority women is a growing problem.
“In the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, they will stop and frisk blacks and Hispanics more,” said Kevon Geanus, 20, a black construction worker, referring to three of New York City’s five boroughs. The other two are Manhattan and Staten Island. “The way they talk to you, and curse at you, when you’re just walking, for example, and say: ‘Why are you walking? What are you doing out here at night?’”
James Westcott, an unemployed Bronx resident, recalled how he had been stopped by the police on three occasions. “One right after the other, by three different patrol cars,” he said. He also claimed that the police had become less considerate to those they stopped. “It started getting bad when Giuliani was mayor, and now it’s getting worse and worse.”
Growing public debate
More than three-quarters of New Yorkers interviewed for the poll said they had heard a lot or some about stop-and-frisk.
Opinions appear to be divided by race and political orientation. Fifty-five percent of whites described the use of the tactic as acceptable, while 56 percent of blacks called it excessive. Among Hispanics, 48 percent said it was acceptable and 44 percent said it was excessive.
Republicans, independents and Queens residents generally support the practice; Democrats and Manhattanites generally deem it excessive.
Most of those surveyed rejected the rationale by Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that stop-and-frisk has lowered the crime rate and reduced the use of illegal guns.
“Stop-and-frisk would be a good idea if they did it right,” said Jose Aponte, 64, a retired doorman who lives in the Bronx. “But it’s not decreasing crime or guns. There are more shootings every day.”
According to a recent DNAinfo.com analysis of the city’s crime data, while the NYPD stopped and frisked a record 685,724 people last year, 1,821 people were victims of gunfire. That’s nearly the same number as in 2002, Mayor Bloomberg’s first year in office, when 1,892 people were shot, but just 97,296 were frisked.
The criticism of stop-and-frisk has recently prompted Kelly to pledge changes to ensure the lawfulness of the practice. The number of stops fell by more than 34 percent in April, May and June compared with the previous quarter.
Crime not top concern
More residents cited crime and violence as an important problem than in a Times poll two years ago.
Still, 57 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the way Bloomberg is dealing with the issue, and 61 percent said they approved of the way that Kelly is handling his job.
Jani Kipness, 58, a white special-education teacher from Brooklyn, said that she thought that officers “single out minority groups,” but that “if you look at cities like Detroit and other cities that have a way higher crime rate than New York, I think New York has to be doing something right.”
According to Congressional Quarterly’s City Crime Rankings for 2011-2012, of 33 cities with a population of 500,000 or more, Detroit had the highest crime and New York City had the third lowest crime, behind El Paso, Texas and Honolulu.
But Bloomberg clearly has room for improvement on his stewardship of race relations. Half of residents said they approved and one-third said they disapproved. Just 36 percent of black residents said they approved of the mayor’s handling of race relations.
The poll of 1,026 adults, conducted Aug. 10-15 using landline phones and cellphones, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. The margin is six points for black respondents and seven points for Hispanic respondents.