The Relationship Between Police and Asian Americans
Much research on race and crime has been devoted to how policing and crime affect Black and Latinx communities. But, Asian Americas have also faced discrimination and hate crimes in the United States periodically. In the late 1880s, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. During World War II, the federal government targeted citizens Japanese Citizens solely because of their race, and there were continuous attacks by white supremacist groups. The recent global pandemic has resulted in the scapegoating of Asian-Americans. According to the FBI. hate crimes against Asian Americans rose 73% in 2020.
Documentation shows a rise in violent attacks toward Asian Americans, including assaults and robberies. Such states seeing an increase in attacks include California, Georgia, and New York. But the communities have had mixed feelings on policing. Some have advocated for more police presence, to help deter these attacks. While others prefer public safety intervention measures that do not include law enforcement. The reluctance of Asian Americans to turn to the police for community safety also comes from the systemic police brutality that disproportionally harms other races.
Surveys demonstrate the majority of Asian-Americans supporting an increase of police presence are older Asian-Americans. Senior individuals are more likely to support police activity since they are more familiar with their presence, and have greater trust in them. Additionally, since elder individuals tend to be more conservative-oriented, they have a greater attachment to social order and reliance on policing. Other variables affecting the relationship between law enforcement and individuals include language barriers and sex.
Image from "The Asian American Vote 2016"
Prior to the pandemic, in 2016, Asian American voters were asked whether they believed the police treated racial and ethnic groups equally. Half of the respondents stated “no,” they did not believe police treat racial and ethnic groups equally. Meanwhile, 26% said they treat groups equally and 24% “did not know.” When examining these results by age, one can note the greatest difference among the 18-29 group and 60-69+.
Image from NPR
Koreans demonstrated the strongest agreement that police treat racial and ethnic groups differently, 64%.
Image from Gallup
A 2020 Gallup Survey reveals only 24% of Asian Americans were very confident they would be positively treated by police. 9% of Asian Americans stated they prefer having police spend more time in their area.
Discrimination against Asian Americans has a long history in California. In Oakland, Chinatown, a greater presence of policing activity has angered Asian-Americans. Progressive Asian-Americans have claimed calling for more police presence in areas of high Anti-Asian sentiment may actually be harmful.
“No matter where we stand on policing, we agree it’s not working. We are in a moment where across the board, everyone’s really searching for answers to the question of: How do we have greater safety in our community?” Liu of the Chinese Progressive Association
Asian American activists fear relying on the institution of policing as they are historically known to criminalize Black and Brown communities. In 2020, hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment rose 1,900%, according to the NYPD. In New York, a new anti-Asian hate crimes task force received much backlash from the community. Asian activists worried this task force would not “disentangle” the racist association between Asian Americans and COVID, resulting in no reduction of hate crime incidents.
"I think this is one of those things where they're putting a Band-Aid on a situation where I feel like there's a lot more that can be done to address deeper issues," Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the nonprofit national Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
As noted, language difference contributes to one’s positive or negative perception of policing. As a result of minimal Asian-American representation in policy, Asian Americans may need help from neighbors or translators to report crimes, which discourages many from reporting. Both of the above graphs demonstrate the lack of representation of Asian Americans in the police force. Additionally, many violent crimes are not identified as hate crimes, diminishing a victim’s experience. A vast number of Asian Americans will perceive increased police presence negatively if they do not adequately target reform.