As weeks of civil turmoil and unrest continue to rage on, almost all Americans are expressing that they want “clear standards” and “extensive changes” to take place both for policing strategies and criminal justice reform, a new survey reports.
The new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 95 percent of Americans believe that police reform — in some capacity — is necessary.
Just 5 percent of responders believe that “no changes” to the criminal justice system are warranted.
The survey was conducted both online and over the phone with adults across the nation over the course of June 11 – 15 through NORC’s University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak Panel, a nationally representative probability-based survey methodology.
With 1,310 responses, the survey took a snapshot of the current climate, as this was in the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, where calls to “Defund the Police” and chants that advocate for law enforcement reform could be heard all over America, the report outlined.
The results from the current survey were also compared to a similar poll AP-NORC conducted in 2015, and the shift in beliefs is striking.
“Americans, regardless of race, strongly support policies that include body cameras, holding police accountable for excessive force and racially biased policing, and creating criteria for the use of force,” the June 2020 AP-NORC Poll concluded.
The researchers also reported that “there is little support for reducing funding for law enforcement,” while there is “strong support for penalizing officers who engage in racially biased policing,” across all ages and demographics.
Agreement Across all Races
Roughly 70 percent of responders, across all races, reported that police officers involved in an injury or fatal misconduct cases believe the officer is “treated too leniently by the justice system.”
In the 2015 AP-NORC survey, just 41 percent said the same.
Overall, 48 percent of Americans believe “police violence against the public is a serious problem,” which is up from the 32 percent who agreed in the same AP-NORC 2015 poll.
Moreover, in 2015, only 19 percent of white Americans said police violence against civilians was an “extremely or very serious problem”; now 39 percent say the problem is very real, the report outlines.
Political Common Ground?
The survey found that there is generally a consensus along political party lines on a number of reforms, but that Democrats (44 percent) are more in favor of sweeping new guidelines and “complete change” to prevent police violence than Independents (27 percent) and Republicans (12 percent).
The political gaps, the survey discovered, arose when the issue of military equipment, funding for law enforcement agencies, and prosecuting low-level offenses, like drug charges, were in question.
The survey’s findings were also summarized by Fortune and the Associated Press, and they interviewed survey responders to get a more anecdotal perspective of their beliefs.
One responder, Megan Pecknold, 33, of Spokane, Wa., disclosed to Fortune that the Black Lives Matter protests featured all over the media have “forced” her to address the privilege she says she, as a white person, was previously ignoring.
“I’ve never had a bad encounter with a police officer,” Pecknold said. “The last few months have brought to light more of this for me, and now I am educating myself [on police brutality].”
The poll also uncovered an “overwhelming support” for changes in the tactics and technology that police departments use routinely.
Some of the areas where change was identified in being a priority for communities and law enforcement were “requiring officers to wear body cameras, establishing clear standards for use of force, prosecuting officers who use excessive force and requiring officers to report misconduct by their peers,” Fortune outlined.
Over 85 percent of 2020 AP-NORC responders all agree that requiring on-duty police officers to wear video cameras would reduce the negative interactions with the public.
Kimberly Jones, 52, a survey responder who lives in New York City, said reforming officers’ relationship with body cameras is “at the top of her list.”
Jones said that the public needs to see what the police witness as they’re engaging in all situations so there’s transparency, and those with authority “can stop something bad from happening” in the moment, and in the future.
The full report can be accessed here.
Additional Reading: GOP Unveils Police Reform Bill, Vowing to be ‘Proactive’ on Cop Violence
Andrea Cipriano is a staff writer for TCR.