The Americans mostly want clear standards on when police officers can use violence and consequences for officers who do it excessively. This emerges from a new survey in which almost all Americans support at least some degree of change in the country's criminal justice system.
The new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Research in Public Affairs also shows that punishment for officials involved in racially biased police operations is strongly supported. Americans today say, more than five years ago, that police violence against the public is a very serious problem and that officials who cause injuries or deaths at work are treated with leniency.
"For me as a black person, this is the case," said Kevin Richardson, 38, of Charlotte, North Carolina. "We should have known it, we should have seen it, and now it has happened, I'm honest, white people see it and say," This is wrong. "
The poll among American adults took place after weeks of mass demonstrations against police violence and called on some politicians and activists to set up departments in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in custody after a white Minneapolis officer pushed him, to "devalue" knees on Floyd's neck for almost eight minutes.
Americans largely agree on the idea that action is needed: 29% believe that the criminal justice system needs to be "completely overhauled", 40% say it needs "major changes" and 25% say it " minor changes ”is required. Only 5% believe that no changes are necessary.
Megan Pecknold, 33, of Spokane, Washington, said the protests forced her to think about these issues in a way that, as a white man, she had the luxury of ignoring them beforehand.
“I had never really thought about the use of violence by the police. I am white. I've never had a bad encounter with a police officer, ”she said. "The past few months have brought more of that to light and now I'm continuing to educate myself."
Almost 6 in 10 black Americans believe the criminal justice system needs a complete makeover, compared to about a quarter of white Americans who said the same. About 4 in 10 white Americans say major changes are needed; 3 out of 10 prefer minor changes.
While Democrats, rather than Republicans, believe that the system needs to be revised [44% to 12%], Americans almost agree across party lines that at least some changes are needed. A further 44% of the Democrats believe that major changes are necessary. Republicans request 34% major changes and 47% minor changes.
The survey shows overwhelming support for changes in the way police work: police officers are required to wear body cameras, clear standards for the use of violence, persecution of officers who use excessive force, and officials are required to report misconduct by their colleagues.
Despite their popularity, body cameras have not always proven to be the hoped-for reformers. But Kimberly Jones, 52, from New York City, said they're at the top of their list.
"You have to see more of what's going on when you speak to people," she said. "You need to know it from the start so you can prevent something bad from happening."
The majority of Democrats and Republicans strongly support the establishment of clear standards for the use of violence, which require officials to wear video cameras and officials to report misconduct by their colleagues. There is also bipartisan support for law enforcement officers who use excessive force and punish racially biased policing officers, although more Democrats than Republicans strongly support this policy.
Brian Bernard, 54, a Republican and retired IT worker from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said the viewer video of Floyd's death was like a "9-minute murder." But he said the problem was a bad cop, not a bad system. Banning chokeholds or the need to retrain doesn't make a bad officer any better, he said.
"Democrats and liberals seem to have the problem of only fixing symptoms," he said. "You can never see the real problem, and the problem is just a bad cop."
While chants of "Defund the Police" have become a collective call in some protests, the survey found that only 25% of Americans are in favor of reducing law enforcement funding. Democrats tend to support this with 41% rather than 33%, while the Republicans are overwhelmingly against it.
Bob Haines, 75, an Oklahoma City pilot who supports President Donald Trump, believes police officers do an excellent job.
"Just like in my job, most of us do a good job, but there are a few bad pilots," said Haines. "A couple of incidents happened and suddenly the sky falls, you know?"
Democrats and Republicans disagree as to whether the judicial system should focus on monitoring and prosecuting low-level crime, with 63% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans in favor. Overall, Americans are at 46% to 25% more in favor of it than against it.
To prevent police violence, most Americans also require all officials to undergo more racial bias training. The majority of Americans believe that the police are more likely to use lethal violence against a black person and that black Americans are generally treated less fairly by the police.
Peckhold, who advocates moderate changes in criminal justice, said these changes should aim to stop systemic racist behavior.
"I don't think Americans really understand how the police are taught this tactic from the start," she said. "If we understand the details better, we can make smarter changes."
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