Police Reform

The recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and other incidents of  law enforcement officers using deadly force have stimulated protest and demands for policing reforms.

Two bills have been introduced in Congress that seek comprehensive police reform: The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which has a House version (H.R. 7120) sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and an identical Senate version (S. 3912), sponsored Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); and the JUSTICE Act (S. 3985), sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

The provisions in these bills seek to impose new regulations regarding the use of force, increase accountability of law enforcement officers’ use of force, address implicit racial bias among officers, and regulate the acquisition of military equipment by police departments. 

The survey covered major provisions from the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120, S. 3912), and the JUSTICE Act (S. 3985) in the 116th Congress.

Proposals with bipartisan support discussed below include:

  • Requiring that all officers be trained in de-escalation techniques and alternatives to the use of deadly force, requiring that such techniques be exhausted before an officer uses deadly force, and making officers criminally liable if they fail to do so
  • Making it a duty for officers to intervene in cases where another officer is using excessive force
  • Prohibiting chokeholds and other neck restraints
  • Banning no-knock warrants, in which officers can enter a suspect’s house without warning
  • Amending qualified immunity so that it is more possible to hold officers liable in civil cases for their use of excessive force
  • Creating a national registry of police misconduct available to all police departments and the public
  • Offering federal funds to states to enable them to always hire an independent prosecutor in cases against an officer who used deadly force
  • Requiring all police officers to wear body cameras, and turn them on whenever they are on a call or interacting with a suspect
  • Requiring all police officers to receive training to counter implicit racial bias
  • Regulating and limiting police department’s access to military equipment

POLICIES REGARDING USE OF FORCE

(An) important debate is whether, in the event that one officer is using excessive force, other officers should be expected to intervene to try to stop them. Many police departments already have such a requirement and provide training on when and how to intervene. 

Here is a proposal currently being considered in Congress: 

  • Require police departments to adopt a policy that makes it a duty for officers to intervene when they perceive another officer is using excessive force
  • Provide officers with training for when and how to intervene 

They evaluated arguments for and against the proposal. The pro argument was found convincing by 85%, including eight in ten Republicans and nine in ten Democrats. 

The con argument was found convincing by just 46%. Two thirds of Republicans found it convincing, but a quarter of Democrats agreed.

Asked for their final recommendation, an overwhelming majority of 82% favored it, including 71% of Republicans and nearly all Democrats (94%).

Related Standard Polls
Standard polls have found overwhelming bipartisan support--higher than in the PPC survey--for requiring police officers to intervene when they witness police misconduct or use of excessive force:

  • Over nine in ten (93%) supported, “Requiring police officers to intervene when they see police misconduct,” including 93% of both Republicans and Democrats. (June 2020, IPSOS/Reuters)
  • Asked whether they, “support or oppose each of the following proposals aimed at reducing excessive use of force by police officers,” an overwhelming 95% supported, “Requiring police to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents,” including 95% of Republicans and 97% of Democrats. (June 2020, Kaiser Family Foundation)

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

As you may know there is much controversy about officers using chokeholds and other restraints that block the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain. These methods were the causes of the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd.

Here is a proposal currently being considered in Congress: 

  • Require states to prohibit the use of chokeholds and other restraints that prevent breathing or block the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain

When they evaluated an argument in favor of the proposal, 82%  found it convincing, including three-quarters of Republicans and nine in ten Democrats.

The argument against was found convincing by just 47% and a quarter of Democrats.  However, among Republicans nearly seven in ten found it convincing.

Asked for their final recommendation, an overwhelming majority of 73% favored it, including 55% of Republicans, 68% of Independents, and nearly all Democrats (91%).

Related Standard Polls
Standard polls have found bipartisan majorities support prohibiting police from using chokeholds and similar neck restraints, both as a “ban” and as a law making the use of chokeholds a crime:

  • Three quarters (74%) favored “Mak(ing) it a crime for police to use chokeholds or strangleholds,” including 57% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats. (June 2020, Pew)
  • Asked whether they, “support or oppose each of the following proposals aimed at reducing excessive use of force by police officers” 68% favored “Banning police from using chokeholds and strangleholds,” including 52% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats. (June 2020, Kaiser Family Foundation)
  • Eight in ten (82%) supported, “Banning police from using chokeholds to restrain civilians/suspects,” including 71% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. (June 2020, IPSOS/Reuters)
  • Told they would be evaluating, “some things that have been proposed to reduce deadly force encounters involving the police,” 67% favored a, “Ban on neck restraints,” including 58% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats. (May 2020, YouGov/Yahoo)

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

Respondents were told the proposal has three parts. The first part includes the new training that officers would be required to receive, and was presented as follows:

  1. All officers would receive training in tactics and techniques that are alternative to the use of deadly force including:
  • Creating physical distance between the officer and the suspect 
  • Putting something between themselves and the suspect to make physical assault less likely
  • Requesting other resources, such as more police officers or social workers who could help solve the problem

Officers would also have to be trained in what are called de-escalation techniques. The idea is to resolve the issue, restore order, get cooperation without having to resort to force. Some of these de-escalation techniques include:

  • Talking with the suspect in a way that calms or defuses the situation 
  • Avoiding escalating the situation by threatening or provoking the suspect
  • Waiting out the suspect

The second part includes the requirement that deadly force be used only as a last resort, after alternative tactics and de-escalation techniques are exhausted:

  1. Officers would only be justified in using deadly force as a last resort, after reasonable alternatives have been exhausted, and when it would not create substantial risk of injury to a third person. 


These policies are already in place in many police departments. This legislation would require that it be official policy for all departments that receive Federal funding. 

The third part includes a change in standards for criminal liability when an officer uses deadly force:

This legislation would also affect criminal cases when an officer uses deadly force and is charged with manslaughter or murder. Currently, on the federal level and in most states, the judge or jury need only determine whether the officer believed that their use of deadly force was reasonable in that situation to protect themselves or others, and if so, the officer would not be convicted. 

  1. Under this proposal, the judge or jury would also have to determine:
  • whether the officer had exhausted other alternative tactics and/or de-escalation techniques in order to solve the problem before resorting to deadly force
  • whether the officer acted with gross negligence in a way that contributed to the need for deadly force

These would be taken into account in assessing whether the officer is guilty. 

Respondents evaluated two pairs of arguments for and against the proposal. All arguments were found convincing by a majority of respondents, but the pro arguments did better in both cases. 

There were partisan differences. Majorities of Republicans found both pro and con arguments convincing--though the con arguments did better--indicating ambivalence about the issue. Majorities of Democrats only found the pro arguments convincing.

The first pro argument used the example of Tamir Rice -- the 12 year old boy shot and killed by police who mistook his toy gun for a real one -- to underscore the consequences of not using alternative tactics before employing deadly force. This was found convincing by 73% overall, including a majority of Republicans (55%) and nine in ten Democrats.

The first con argument emphasized how police put their lives on the line daily, often making split-second decisions, and that imposing new limits on them will put their lives at risk and embolden criminals. Six in ten found this convincing, including 86% of Republicans. Just 37% of Democrats agreed.

The second pro argument cited the effectiveness of this policy when it has been implemented in some states. A large bipartisan majority of eight in ten found this convincing, including seven in ten Republicans and nine in ten Democrats.

The second con argument struck against the new criminal liability standards, claiming they would entangle courts, and discourage officers from taking necessary actions to protect themselves and others. A modest majority of 55% found this convincing. There was, again, a fifty point gap between Republicans (82%) and Democrats (30%).

Asked for their final recommendation, 69% favored the proposal, including 90% of Democrats And 67% of independents. Less than half of Republicans (46%) favored the proposal, with 53% opposed.

Respondents also rated the acceptability of the proposal on a 0-10 scale. It was found at least tolerable (5-10) by eight in ten, including nearly all Democrats (94%).  Though less than half of Republicans favored the proposal, 64% found it at least tolerable – consistent with their ambivalent response to the pro and con arguments.

Related Standard Polls
Very large bipartisan majorities have favored requiring police to be trained in de-escalation techniques and alternatives to the use of deadly force:

  • Over nine in ten (93%) favored, “Requir[ing] police to be trained in nonviolent alternatives to deadly force,” including 91% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. (June 2020, Pew)
  • Asked whether they would support, “the following measures aimed at reducing police officers’ use of excessive force against black or African Americans,” 87% favored, “Requiring all officers to undergo training on de-escalation tactics to avoid the use of force,” including 85% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats. (June 2020, IPSOS/Public Agenda)
  • Told they would be evaluating, “some things that have been proposed to reduce deadly force encounters involving the police,” 88% favored a policy to, “Train police on how to de-escalate conflicts and avoid using force,” including 83% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. (May 2020, YouGov/Yahoo)

A very large bipartisan majority favors criminal action against officers who use excessive force, even when given a middle option:

  • Asked whether they favor, “each of the following policies intended to prevent police violence,” 84% favored, “Prosecuting police officers who use excessive force,” including 82% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats. (June 2020, APNORC)

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120) sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

Before being presented the proposal, respondents were informed about the nature and rationale of no-knock warrants:

Warrants are provided by judges and allow the police to enter and search a home. “No-knock warrants” allow police to not knock on the door but to break into a suspect’s home. Such warrants allow the police not to announce that they are law enforcement officers before they enter, and not to wear uniforms or insignia that identify them.

A rationale for such no-knock warrants is that it allows officers to break into the home of someone suspected of dealing drugs. The idea is that the suspect will not have time to get guns that they can use against the officer or eliminate the evidence, for example, by flushing the drugs down a toilet.

The controversy surrounding no-knock warrants was then explained, as well as the proposal for prohibiting them:

Such no-knock warrants have become controversial because there have been a number of cases in which the police went to the wrong address and broke in. In the high-profile case of Breonna Taylor, she and her partner thought criminals were breaking-in, a violent exchange ensued, and Breonna Taylor was killed by an officer. 

Here is a proposal currently being considered in Congress: 

  • Require local and state governments to ban the use of no-knock warrants for drug cases. 

Arguments for and against this proposal were then evaluated. The pro argument was found convincing by over three quarters, including 67% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats. 

The con argument was found convincing by a bare majority of 51%, including seven in ten Republicans (69%), but less than four in ten Democrats (36%) convinced.

Asked for their final recommendation, a majority of 65% favored it,   including 82% of Democrats and 65% of Independents.  Less than half of Republicans–45%–favored it (53% opposed).

However, asked to rate the proposal on a 0-10 scale, 74% found the proposal at least tolerable (5-10), as did 58% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats.

Related Standard Polls
A bare majority support a ban on no-knock warrants, with significant partisan differences:

  • Asked whether they support, “each of the following proposals aimed at reducing excessive use of force by police officers,” 52% favored, “Banning no-knock warrants that allow police to enter a person’s residence unannounced,” including 65% of Democrats. Just 34% of Republicans were in favor. (June 2020, Kaiser Family Foundation)

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

INCREASING ACCOUNTABILITY OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

A key idea for making law enforcement officers more accountable for their actions is to increase the use of body cameras. It also helps with training, supervision, and documentation. Currently, about half of all police departments do not have body cameras, and among those that do, not all of them require that they always be used. 

Here is a proposal currently being considered in Congress:

  • Require all police departments to have body cameras, to have their law enforcement officers wear them, and turn them on whenever they are responding to a police call or interacting with a suspect. Failure to do so would result in disciplinary action.

In evaluating the pro and con arguments the pro argument was found extraordinarily more convincing than the con argument. The pro argument was found convincing by nearly all respondents (93%), with no partisan differences.

The con argument was found convincing by just a quarter, including just 36% of Republicans and only 18% of Democrats.

This proposal was the most popular and the most bipartisan of all tested in this study, with 89% in favor, including 85% of Republicans, 86% of Independents and 94% of Democrats.

Related Standard Polls
Very large bipartisan majorities have favored officers wearing body cameras including in questions that specify that it would be required.:

  • Asked whether they support, “the following measures aimed at reducing police officers’ use of excessive force against black or African Americans,” 90% favored, “Officers wearing and using body cameras when on duty,” including 94% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. (June 2020, IPSOS/Public Agenda)

Asked whether they, favor “each of the following policies intended to prevent police violence,” 88% favored, “Requiring on-duty police officers to wear video cameras that would record their interactions with the public as they occur,” including 88% of Republicans and 93% of Democrats. (June 2020, APNORC)

  • Nine in ten (92%) supported, “Requiring federal police officers to wear body cameras,” including 89% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats. (June 2020, IPSOS/Reuters)
  • Told, “Here are some things that have been proposed to reduce deadly force encounters involving the police,” 87% favored a policy to, “Outfit all officers with body cameras,” including 82% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. (May 2020, YouGov/Yahoo)

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the JUSTICE Act (S. 3985) sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott (R) in the 116th Congress. A motion to proceed with a vote on the bill failed, with 53 Republicans and 2 Democrats voting in favor, and 45 Democrats voting against. It needed 60 votes to proceed to a vote.

A similar proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which would require all officers to wear body cameras, but would leave it to local and state departments to determine when they are required to be used. This bill passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

Respondents were first informed of the controversy around the lack of access to police misconduct records:

Currently, when a law enforcement officer has gotten multiple complaints for unlawful and/or abusive behavior or has been fired from a department for such behavior, they may go to another city or state and apply for a new position. The new city or state may not have access to information about this past behavior and their previous department is not required to and is often prevented from revealing such information to a new potential employer. 

They were then introduced to the proposal:

Create a national database of police misconduct and require all law enforcement agencies to submit information about officer misconduct. This information would include:

  • complaints filed by civilians against a law enforcement officer
  • disciplinary action taken against an officer such as a suspension, and the reason for it
  • firing of an officer and the reason for it
  • lawsuits against an officer, and their outcome

This database would be available to all law enforcement agencies as well as other government agencies and the public.

Respondents evaluated arguments for and against the proposal. The pro argument was found convincing by an overwhelming and bipartisan majority of 87%, including 83% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats.

The con argument was found convincing by just 43%, including a majority of Republicans (61%), but just a quarter of Democrats.

Asked for their final recommendation, a very large bipartisan majority of 81% favored it,  including 70% of Republicans, 77% of Independents and 92% of Democrats.

Related Standard Polls
A very large bipartisan majority has favored creating a national database of police misconduct:

  • Nine in ten (89%) favored, “Creat[ing] a federal government database to track police officers who have been accused of misconduct,” including 85% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. (June 2020, Pew)

Large majorities have favored making public all records of police misconduct: 

  • Asked whether they support, “each of the following proposals aimed at reducing excessive use of force by police officers,” 76% favored, “Requiring states to publicly release disciplinary records for law enforcement officers,” including 62% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats. (June 2020, Kaiser Family Foundation)
  • Over six in ten (63%) supported, “making public the details of internal police investigations that find evidence of misconduct, like committing perjury or filing a false report?” Partisan breakouts were not provided. (June 2020, YouGov/Data for Progress)

A very large bipartisan majority favors not only creating a national database of police misconduct but also prohibiting police departments from hiring officers who have used excessive force:

  • Asked whether they support, “the following measures aimed at reducing police officers’ use of excessive force against black or African Americans,” 78% favored, “Creating a national, public database of officers who have used excessive force and prohibiting other jurisdictions from rehiring them,” including 71% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats. (June 2020, IPSOS/Public Agenda)

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

Respondents were first informed of the concerns around the independence of prosecutors in cases against police officers:

When there is a criminal case against a law enforcement officer for using deadly force, in most cases the prosecutor is someone, who regularly works closely with the officer’s department. Some people have a concern that these prosecutors have a conflict of interest. Such prosecutors rely on the cooperation and testimony of law enforcement officers of the agency when working to convict criminals. 

They were then introduced to the idea of having an independent prosecutor. 

To overcome a potential conflict of interest, a state can hire an independent prosecutor. An independent prosecutor is a person who does not regularly work with the law enforcement agency that employs the officer being investigated or charged. 

They were then introduced to the proposal:

Here is a proposal currently being considered in Congress: 

  • Offer states federal funding to hire an independent prosecutor when investigating or charging a law enforcement officer for using deadly force. 
  • To receive this funding, the state must first put in place a policy requiring the use of an independent prosecutor in all such cases.

Arguments for and against the proposal were evaluated. The pro argument was found convincing by over three quarters, including 66% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats.

The con argument was found convincing by less than half (44%), including just a quarter of Democrats, but two thirds of Republicans.

Asked for their final recommendation, a bipartisan majority of seven in ten favored the proposal,including 86% of Democrats, 68% of independents, and a bare majority of Republicans (52%).

On the 0-10 scale, a more robust 66% of Republicans found the proposal at least tolerable (5-10) as did 92% of Democrats.

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

Respondents were first briefed on civil cases against police officers, how “qualified immunity” currently works and the related controversy:

So far, we have been talking mostly about cases when a law enforcement officer’s use of force results in them being charged with a crime within the criminal justice system. We will now look at cases where an officer is charged in a civil case. 

As you may know, civilians can sue law enforcement officers (as well as other government officials) if they violate their legal rights. An officer can violate a person’s rights by using excessive force, such as hitting or shooting them when that was not necessary. Also, if an officer unnecessarily kills a civilian, their family can sue the officer.

 If that person wins the civil court case, then they will receive money as compensation.  However, in fact, it is very rare that an officer is held liable. This is because there are laws and court rulings that provide officers what is called “qualified immunity.”

This immunity is very controversial because there have been some cases in which an officer wounded or killed an unarmed civilian in a way that was widely perceived as unlawful, unjust, or unnecessary, but was not held liable as a result of this immunity.

They were then introduced to the proposal for amending qualified immunity. 

We are now going to ask you to evaluate a proposal to make it more possible that officers would be held liable for using excessive force by modifying the rules for qualified immunity.

Currently, when an officer is sued for excessive use of force, they can be granted immunity if they say they were acting in good faith--not out of anger or racial hostility--and believed their actions were lawful, irrespective of how most others may view it. In many cases, a judge or jury has accepted this as a basis for dismissing the case.

The first part of a proposal currently being considered in Congress would no longer allow officers to be granted immunity solely on the basis that the officer says they were acting in good faith and believed their actions were lawful.

This would mean that the judge or jury must determine whether the officer’s conduct was in fact lawful, irrespective of what the officer believed.

In addition, when an officer is sued for excessive use of force, they can be granted immunity if there have not been previous cases in which officers were held liable for the same conduct in very similar circumstances. In many cases a judge or jury has accepted this as a basis for dismissing the case.

The second part of the proposal would no longer allow officers to be granted immunity solely on the basis that there have not been previous cases in which other officers were held liable for the same conduct in very similar circumstances. 

This would make it more likely that the case will move forward, and that a judge or jury assesses whether the officer's use of force was unlawful -- whether or not there has been a similar case with similar circumstances.

The argument in favor of the proposal was found convincing by a large bipartisan majority of 73%, including 57%of Republicans and 87% of Democrats.

The con argument did not do as well, with half finding it convincing, including a large majority of Republicans (74%), but just three in ten Democrats.

Finally, when asked for their recommendation, 63% favored the proposal, including over eight in ten Democrats and 64% of Independents. Just four in ten Republicans favored it (58% opposed).

However, on the 0-10 scale, 73% found the proposal at least tolerable (5-10), as did 56% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats.

Related Standard Polls
A YouGov/CATO poll in July 2020 briefly presented parts of the proposal for amending qualified immunity.  Each one got majority support, but not always bipartisan. 

  • Told that, “qualified immunity protects police officers from being sued for misconduct unless there is a previous legal case with similar facts ruling that officers may not engage in that particular conduct” and then, asked whether they favor, “eliminating qualified immunity so that police officers could be sued for misconduct even if there is no previous legal case with similar facts,” 63% favored the change, including 79% of Democrats. Among Republicans, 42% favored it with 58% opposed. 
  • Asked, “If a police officer violates a person’s rights, but is unaware at the time that their actions were illegal, should that officer be held accountable for their conduct,” 79% said yes, including 64% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. 
  • Asked if they favored “allowing police officers to avoid lawsuits for misconduct by arguing they did not know they had acted illegally,” 77% said they were opposed, including 60% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats. 

A Pew poll from June 2020 seemed to be referencing qualified immunity when they asked respondents to choose between these two statements. 

  • “In order to do their jobs effectively, police officers need to be protected against lawsuits that may be brought by civilians who accuse them of excessive force or misconduct” (32%, Republicans 53%, Democrats 14%)
  • “Even if it might make police officers’ jobs more difficult, civilians need to have the power to sue police officers in order to hold officers accountable for excessive use of force or misconduct” (66%, Republicans 45%, Democrats 84%)

However this is an inaccurate depiction of the issue.  Civilians already have the ability to sue police officers.  Amending qualified immunity would only make it more possible to be successful in such a suit.  

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

OTHER PROVISIONS

Respondents were first presented information about racial disparities in police use of force:

As you may know, studies have found that, even in similar situations, officers use excessive force against minorities more than they do against white civilians. Black people are more than two times as likely to be shot and killed by officers than white people and are more likely to be unarmed when it happens. 

The nature of implicit bias, and its consequences, was explained:

Based on numerous studies, there is evidence that the problem here is not primarily that most officers have conscious negative attitudes toward minorities. Rather there is evidence that many officers -- like most people -- have what is called an “implicit bias.” This is an unconscious negative attitude toward certain types of people that leads one to interpret their behavior in a more threatening way. This could, for example, lead an officer to be more likely to assume that someone from a particular race poses a danger and is getting ready to act violently against the officer, leading the officer to use deadly force preemptively. 

Because the criminal justice system is supposed to treat every person equally, there is concern that implicit bias is resulting in minorities, especially Black Americans, being treated unfairly.

The proposal was then presented, as follows:

Training methods have been developed to help people understand better how implicit bias may be affecting them and to consciously work to counter its effects. 

Various law enforcement agencies have used these training methods with their officers. While some studies have found the training to be effective in reducing implicit bias, others have found it to be ineffective. 

Here is a current proposal being considered in Congress: 

  • Require police departments to provide their officers training on implicit bias.

Arguments for and against the proposal were evaluated. The pro argument did substantially better, with the con argument found convincing by a majority only of Republicans. 

The pro argument was found convincing by nearly three quarters, including 58% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats.

The con argument was found convincing by under four in ten, including just one in five Democrats. A majority of Republicans found it convincing (59%).

Asked for their final recommendation, a bipartisan majority of 72% favored it, including 89% of Democrats, 68% of Independents and a more modest 53% of Republicans.

On the 0-10 scale the proposal was rated as at least tolerable (5-10) by eight in ten, including 94% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans.

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

As you may know, there is a controversy about local law enforcement agencies receiving surplus equipment from the US military. Currently local law enforcement agencies can get such surplus equipment for only the cost of shipping them. 

There are two concerns that have been expressed about this program: 

  • Currently local law enforcement agencies do not have to get approval from their local government to request and get such equipment
  • Some law enforcement agencies have acquired high powered, military-style equipment 

They were then presented the proposal that would require that:

  • law enforcement agencies get approval from local government before requesting military equipment
  • the public be informed of the request
  • local governments annually report to Congress on what military equipment they have
  • unused equipment be returned
  • Law enforcement agencies would not be able to request certain kinds of equipment, such as high capacity, automatic weapons; grenade launchers and explosives; armored or weaponized drones; silencers; and aircraft. Large armored vehicles, like tanks and personnel carriers, would require additional justification. 

Arguments for and against the proposal were found convincing by a majority, although the pro did better overall. The pro argument was found convincing by seven in ten, including a modest majority of Republicans (55%) and 84% of Democrats.

The con argument was found convincing by a bare majority of 52%, including three quarters of Republicans. Just three in ten Democrats agreed.

In the end, the proposal was favored by 64%, including 84% of Democrats and 64% of Independents.  However less than half of Republicans–43%–concurred (56% opposed).

But, on the 0-10 scale, 72% found the idea at least tolerable (5-10), as did 54% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats.  Correspondingly, Republicans showed ambivalence in that majorities found both the pro and con arguments convincing.  

Status of Legislation
The proposal is in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D) (H.R. 7120) and Sen. Cory Booker (D) (S. 3912) in the 116th Congress, which passed the House with 233 Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and 180 Republicans and one independent voting against. It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.