34 States Have Changed Laws on Policing in Two Years

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Photo by Valerie Everett via Flickr

A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice says there has been a “significant uptick in states’ actions around policing, including clarifying and improving policies around use-of-force and misconduct cases and improving tracking of police operations around the use of body-worn cameras.” Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia made at least 79 changes to their laws on policing in the last two years, compared with fewer than 20 bills total in the prior three years. The most widespread trend was to document police operations; 30 geographically and politically diverse states passed such laws. State legislators have focused reform efforts on improving policing practices around use of force, racial profiling, and responding to vulnerable populations; documenting police operations through body-worn cameras, protections for public recordings of police, and requirements for reporting data; and improving accountability on police use of force and misconduct, especially for incidents that result in death.

The report provides concise summaries of representative reforms in each of these areas, serving as a guide for other state policymakers looking to enact similar changes. “The fact that two-thirds of states have reformed their laws governing policing in just two years is reflective of a growing, bipartisan trend toward criminal justice reform across many issues,” said report co-author Ram Subramanian. Other legislative trends covered in the report include protecting the rights of the public to record interactions with officers, improving responses to violence against law enforcement, and outlawing racial and other prejudicial profiling by law enforcement officers.

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