WASHINGTON — Young Americans are about equally likely to say they’ve had an encounter with police, but young black adults are much more likely than whites to say they’ve been arrested, harassed or know someone who has been, a new GenForward poll said Wednesday.
Twenty-eight percent of blacks say they have been arrested after encounters with law enforcement, 24 percent say they’ve been personally harassed by police, and 53 percent say they know someone who has.
The numbers are much lower for whites and Asian-Americans, while Hispanics fall in between.
Breaking it down, 22 percent of Hispanics, 15 percent of whites and 10 percent of Asians-Americans say they have been arrested after encounters with police. Sixteen percent of Hispanics, 8 percent of whites and 4 percent of Asian-Americans say they’ve experienced harassment, while about a third of Hispanics and about a quarter of Asian-Americans and whites say someone they know has been harassed by police.
That’s despite the fact that that the groups aged 18 to 30 are about equally likely to say they’ve ever been stopped by the police. About three-quarters of young whites and African-Americans say they’ve been stopped, as do about 7 in 10 Latinos. Young Asian-Americans are somewhat less likely to say they’ve been stopped, about 6 in 10.
This information comes from a new GenForward survey of young adults conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The first-of-its-kind poll pays special attention to the voices of young adults of color, highlighting how race and ethnicity shape the opinions of the country’s most diverse generation.
The results may explain some resentment toward police among young African-American adults. On Sunday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick cited police mistreatment of minorities as a reason for his refusal to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at National Football League preseason games.
Jerard Jack, a former Army military police officer, says he was pulled over by police in Lake Charles, Louisiana, while on the way to see his grandmother at a hospital. Seconds later, Jack said, he was facing stun guns and curses from the police for questioning their contention that he looked like a black suspect who, it turns out, did not resemble him. A police officer friend of Jack’s drove by, saw the situation and persuaded the other officers to let him go.
By the time Jack made it to the hospital, his grandmother was dead.
“Once they put that uniform on and that badge, they feel like they’re above the law,” Jack said.
Three-quarters of young people overall, including 9 in 10 African-Americans, more than 8 in 10 Latinos and Asian-Americans and more than 6 in 10 whites think the police treat some groups better than others. Among those who see differential treatment, 9 in 10 say African-Americans are more likely to be mistreated.
The poll finds that only about a quarter of black young adults say they always or often trust the police to do what’s right, a stark difference from the almost 3 of 4 white young adults who say they do. Hispanics and Asian-Americans fall in between, with about half of them saying they always or often trust the police to do what’s right.
Feelings of mistrust are not just about the police nationwide. Thinking about their own neighborhoods, just 48 percent of young blacks say they believe the police are there to protect them. The number is much higher for others, with 80 percent of young whites, 74 percent of Asian-Americans and 66 percent of Hispanics saying that.
Kristen Gray, 24, a hospital worker in Philadelphia, said she was unsure whether she would call the police if she needed help. She said she and her friends have been stopped and harassed by city police numerous times — including when she was pregnant and being taken to the hospital by her boyfriend and a male friend in 2013.
Police pulled them over, she said, and told her two black males in a car with dark tinted windows made them “fit a description.” They were made to stand outside the car for at least 30 minutes until officers, finding no warrants for their arrest, let them proceed to the hospital.
“I think they are irrational sometimes. They don’t think like people,” Gray said. “They just think like police, and they’re always quick to jump the gun and do their job but they’re not thinking like a normal person would think sometimes.”
The poll of 1,958 adults age 18-30 was conducted Aug. 1-14 using a sample drawn from the probability-based GenForward panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. young adult population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
The survey was paid for by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago, using grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.