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N.Y. support for 'stop-and-frisk' split along racial lines in poll

August 16, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • Mourners attend the funeral Aug. 1 of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan, whose shooting on a New York street has helped elevate the debate over the police department's stop-and-frisk policy.
Mourners attend the funeral Aug. 1 of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan, whose shooting… (Spencer Platt / Getty Images )

NEW YORK -- A poll shows that New Yorkers are clearly divided along racial lines over the police department's stop-and-frisk policy: Critics say it permits racial profiling while supporters say it gets illegal guns and other weapons off the street.

The survey by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut was released Thursday, and its findings were based on a survey of 1,298 registered voters in New York City, where divisions over stop-and-frisk have been underscored this summer by a spate of high-profile shootings.

Since July, at least three toddlers have been struck by gunfire in New York City while outside playing, including a 4-year-old boy who was shot in the head by a stray bullet and killed. There have been four playground shootings, the latest on Monday in Brooklyn where four teenagers suffered gunshot wounds.

The poll results indicate that New Yorkers aren't overwhelmingly convinced that the stop-and-frisk policy, which permits police to stop people they suspect of wrongdoing and search them, does much to reduce gun violence. According to the results, 41% think gun violence would increase if stop-and-frisk were eliminated.

Asked if they approved of the policy, 45% said they did, and 50% said they did not. Among black voters, 25% supported the practice, and 69% opposed it. Among whites, 57% supported stop-and-frisk; among Hispanics, 53% approved.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has gone to court to try to stop the practice, saying that statistics showing the majority of people being stopped are black or Latino shows the program is racially biased.

According to the group, in the first three months of 2012 more than 203,000 people were stopped and frisked. Citing New York Police Department statistics, the group said 54% of them were black, 33%  were Latino and 9% were white.

The number of stops dropped sharply between April and the end of June, according to department numbers, a decline the civil liberties group said was encouraging but not enough to rebuild trust it says has been lost between communities and the police department.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and other supporters of the practice say police who stop and search people are driven by concerns about crime, not the color of people's skin. They say the searches have removed tens of thousands of guns and other weapons from city streets in recent years.

Despite split opinions about stop-and-frisk, New Yorkers approve of the way Kelly is doing his job. Among its other findings, the poll showed that voters approve of the police commissioner by a margin of 64% to 26%. Among black voters, Kelly's approval rate is 51%; among whites, his approval rating soars to 77%.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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