If Americans Don’t Want to Defund the Police, What Do They Want?

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When people are asked what they really think about criminal justice, the answers are complicated, with many white people open to police reform, and many Black people  wary of curtailing law enforcement, reports Slate. A review of more than 100 recent polls, comprising tens of thousands of interviews, shows how reformers can make a more effective case for changing the system.  Across the political spectrum, there’s a consensus for requiring officers to wear body cameras, mandating independent investigations of officer-involved shootings, and creating a national registry of police misconduct records. By 2 to 1, the public supports banning chokeholds and no-knock search warrants. In a survey of more than 1,800 Americans, 60 percent of respondents said police supervisors should be penalized for racially biased conduct by their officers; only 15 percent disagreed.

There’s also broad support for easing up on prosecutions of nonviolent first-time offenders. Two-thirds of Americans favor shorter sentences for this group and want to let them serve time in community service, drug rehabilitation, or some other alternative to prison. When the question on qualified immunity is phrased neutrally in various ways, the results are consistent: Nearly 60 percent of Americans favor allowing such lawsuits; only about 30 percent disagree. Americans reject that idea of defunding the police by about 40 percentage points and are doubly against abolishing the police, which, in an Economist-YouGov poll, lost by 45 points among Black Americans, by 64 points among Democrats, and by 76 points among all voters. Taken as a whole, the numbers teach three basic lessons. First, policing has to be reformed. Second, the rhetoric of “defunding” police, let alone abolishing them, is politically disastrous. Third, there’s a strong consensus for accountability.

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