Q75: Do you support fully implementing the policing reform recommendations included in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Report developed during the Obama Administration?
Biden: Yes. We need to confront racial and income-based disparities in our justice system and eliminate overly harsh sentencing for non-violent crimes. As president, I will:
- Expand and use the power of the U.S. Justice Department to address systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices. Using authority in legislation spearheaded by me as senator, the Obama-Biden Justice Department used pattern-or-practice investigations and consent decrees to address circumstances of “systemic police misconduct” and to “restore trust between police and communities” in cities such as Ferguson. Yet, the Trump Administration’s Justice Department has limited the use of this tool. For example, under the Trump Administration, consent decrees between the Justice Department and police departments must now be signed off on by a political appointee from the Department. And, the Justice Department has set an arbitrary limit on how long such consent decrees can remain in place regardless of whether an end to the agreement is warranted. Under the Biden Administration, the Justice Department will again use its authority to root out unconstitutional or unlawful policing. I will reverse the limitations put in place under President Trump, and appoint Justice Department leadership who will prioritize the role of using pattern-or-practice investigations to strengthen our justice system. In addition, I will push for legislation to clarify that this pattern-or-practice investigation authority can also be used to address systemic misconduct by prosecutors’ offices.
- Establish an independent Task Force on Prosecutorial Discretion. Law enforcement officials’ decisions regarding when to arrest, when to charge, and what charges to bring are critical decision-points in our criminal justice system. The charges, for example, can dramatically impact not only what sentence someone ends up with but also whether they are compelled to take a plea bargain. I will create a new task force, placed outside of the U.S. Department of Justice, to make recommendations for tackling discrimination and other problems in our justice system that results from arrest and charging decisions.
- Invest in public defenders’ offices to ensure defendants’ access to quality counsel. To create a fairer criminal justice system, we must ensure that individuals who cannot afford counsel have quality representation. And, access to counsel should be available starting at the moment someone appears before a judge. But, right now, defenders’ resources and support are too decentralized and too hard to access. I know from my own experience leaving a law firm to be a public defender, the wage disparity for prosecutors and defenders limits the ability of defenders’ offices to recruit the best and brightest. As president, I will expand the Obama-Biden effort to expand resources for public defenders’ offices.
View details of my comprehensive criminal justice reform plan, which includes reforming our system of policing, H ERE.
Bloomberg: Mike will sign a bill raising the standard for use of force by federal officers—barring deadly force unless it’s necessary to prevent serious injury or death and barring other force unless it’s necessary to make an arrest. Officers will receive regular training in de-escalation and implicit bias, with a focus on building public trust. They will meet with justice-involved people to build an understanding of the impact that over-policing can have on a person’s life.
- Mike will direct DOJ to perform a national review of police policies – with input from communities and criminal justice advocates – and with the aim of developing best practices and approaches.
- Mike will press states to follow the federal lead with their own use of force statutes, and will fund training nationwide—with the goal of raising and unifying standards across the country.
- Mike will require federal officers to wear body cameras and will fund cameras for state and local police.
- Federal agencies will employ early warning systems to identify at-risk officers and intervene with additional training and counseling before abuse occurs—and will fund these effective programs in the states.
- Mike will ensure federal law enforcement have independent and transparent oversight boards to hold abusive officers accountable, and will pressure states to do the same.
- Mike would also re-invigorate the Community Relations Service with a new mandate to help law enforcement and community groups connect, to defuse tensions and prevent over-policing, and to help connect vulnerable populations with the services they need.
Buttigeig: Yes. It is essential that these reforms, developed with the input of activists, academics, police, and local officials, are implemented and properly funded. In particular, the report’s call for additional data transparency is crucial, and is why I have proposed we establish a comprehensive federal database to document use of force and track officers who are fired from their duties so that an officer cannot be fired from one department and rehired by another without the record of the wrongdoings at the officer’s previous position.
De La Fuente: Yes.
Klobuchar: Yes. The criminal justice system cannot lose sight of the principles of fairness, compassion and equality under the law. As President, Senator Klobuchar will take on racism in the criminal justice system and work with law enforcement agencies across the country to improve practices and reduce implicit bias and discriminatory conduct. She will: -Advance law enforcement reforms nationwide. As the Hennepin County Attorney, Senator Klobuchar worked with the Innocence Project to put policies in place like innovative eyewitness processes to protect against false identifications. As President, Senator Klobuchar will continue to champion policies she has long supported, including videotaped interrogations, reforms to the eyewitness process, diversity in hiring, law enforcement resources and training, training grants and technical assistance and meaningful and consistent outreach to our citizens. -Strengthen Department of Justice efforts to prevent unconstitutional and illegal policing. The Trump Administration has sharply limited Department of Justice investigations into law enforcement agencies with a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or otherwise illegal policing and made it more difficult to issue consent decrees to correct this type of conduct. As President, Senator Klobuchar will lift the Trump Administration restrictions on consent decrees and provide the Department of Justice additional resources for pattern or practice investigations. -Reduce the use of force in policing. Senator Klobuchar supports recommending de-escalation techniques to reduce the use of force and will work to ensure that departments accurately and properly report, document and investigate use of force incidents. She will also work to stop the militarization of police forces by reforming the 1033 program to prevent the transfer of military weapons that are inappropriate for domestic law enforcement and implementing Government Accountability Office recommendations to increase oversight and regulation of the program. -Ban discriminatory profiling. Senator Klobuchar will ban discriminatory profiling by law enforcement on the local, state and federal level by passing the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, legislation she co-sponsors in the Senate. -Train law enforcement officers to respond to people with disabilities. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work with local and state authorities to ensure that responding to people with disabilities is a core part of law enforcement officer training, and expand training to public health departments, first responders and school personnel. -Expand the use of body cameras nationwide. Body cameras have been shown to improve interactions between police and citizens and improve law enforcement practice. Senator Klobuchar has long pushed for expanding the use of body cameras and as President will direct federal police to wear body cameras and work with state and local governments with the goal of equipping all law enforcement officers with body cameras. -Ensure funding to prevent and respond to violent hate crimes and address racial discrimination. Senator Klobuchar will fully staff and fund the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, a non-investigative office of “peacemakers” founded by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides communities facing racial and other conflict with confidential services to ease tensions. -Improve federal data collection. As President, Senator Klobuchar will direct the Department of Justice to work with states to improve the data that is collected and reported to the federal government about policing techniques and outcomes including use of force, stops, arrests, and deaths in custody. She will also improve the collection of demographic data to better recognize and correct implicit biases or discriminatory conduct.
Sanders: Bernie believes we need fundamental police reform that invests in community policing and police forces that reflect the diversity of our communities, including in the training academies and leadership. The people who serve our country as police officers deserve our gratitude and respect. As a country, though, we are asking them to do far too much. As human beings, we all share common vulnerabilities, and we all share basic needs to live a stable and dignified life.
In America, we have not made the necessary investments to secure a strong enough social fabric to ensure that people’s basic needs are met. So, in lieu of addressing problems directly, we ask police officers to address every societal issue that results from the tears in the fabric, whether it be mental illness, addiction, homelessness, or poverty. We ask these overstressed police officers to fill roles they are not trained or equipped for — doubling as social workers, conflict negotiators, and medical responders. Last year, more police officers died of suicide than in the line of duty. We need to shift our emphasis toward solving problems in ways that don’t rely on policing and incarceration as a first option by supporting alternative strategies to make individuals and communities safer and healthier.
In other ways, we must hold our police and sheriff’s departments to a higher standard. And we must end harmful policing practices like racial profiling, stop and frisk, oppressive “broken windows” policing, and the militarization of police forces — all of which actively undermine public safety and community trust in law enforcement.
Widespread use of excessive force, including deadly shootings of unarmed civilians, undermine the integrity of and public trust in the police. Violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of the police meant to protect and serve our communities, must not be tolerated. As President, Bernie will:
- Rescind former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ guidance on consent decrees.
- Revitalize the use of Department of Justice investigations, consent decrees, and federal lawsuits to address systemic constitutional violations by police departments.
- Ensure accountability, strict guidelines and independent oversight for all federal funds used by police departments.
- End federal programs that provide military equipment to local police forces.
- Create a federally managed database of police use of deadly force.
- Provide grants for states and cities to establish civilian oversight agencies with enforceable accountability mechanisms.
- Establish federal standards for the use of body cameras, including establishing third-party agencies to oversee the storage and release of police videos.
- Mandate criminal liability for civil rights violations resulting from police misconduct.
- Limit the use of “qualified immunity” to address the lack of criminal liability for civil rights violations resulting from police misconduct.
- Conduct a U.S. Attorney General’s investigation whenever someone is killed in police custody.
- Establish a federal no-call policy, including a registry of disreputable federal law enforcement officers, so testimony from untrustworthy sources does not lead to criminal convictions. Provide financial support to pilot local and state level no-call lists.
- Ban the use of facial recognition software for policing.
- Establish national standards for use of force by police that emphasize de-escalation.
- Require and fund police officer training on implicit bias (to include biases based on race, gender, sexual orientation and identity, religion, ethnicity and class), cultural competency, de-escalation, crisis intervention, adolescent development, and how to interact with people with mental and physical disabilities. We will ensure that training is conducted in a meaningful way with strict independent oversight and enforceable guidelines.
- Ban the practice of any law enforcement agency benefiting from civil asset forfeiture. Limit or eliminate federal criminal justice funding for any state or locality that does not comply.
- Provide funding to states and municipalities to create civilian corps of unarmed first responders, such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals, who can handle order maintenance violations, mental health emergencies, and low-level conflicts outside the criminal justice system, freeing police officers to concentrate on the most serious crimes.
- Incentivize access to counseling and mental health services for officers.
- Diversify police forces and academies and incentivize officers to live and work in the communities they serve.
Steyer: Yes. My criminal justice plan will reform policing by working with local law enforcement and communities. This includes identifying and combating racial bias in law enforcement, banning the use of facial recognition in policing, advocating for a Federal standard for the use of force and investing $500 million in community policing. This also includes demilitarizing law enforcement, creating a Presidential Task Force on Policing, Criminal Justice, and the Mental Health Crisis. The plan also lays out a legal roadmap for reforming policing, which includes incentivizing states to repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws, fully funding the Violence Against Women Act, and creating a higher standard of accountability for white collar crime.
Warren: Yes. Everyone is less safe when trust is eroded between the police and the communities they serve. Yet we’ve continued to allow policing practices that are both ineffective and discriminatory. It’s time to fundamentally change how police work is done in America — funding what works; replacing failed policies with effective, evidence-based practices that do not violate individual rights; and reframing our approach to public safety to prioritize prevention over punishment. I’ll end stop-and-frisk and other racially discriminatory policies by directing the Justice Department to withhold federal funding from law enforcement agencies that continue to employ it and other similar practices, and I’ll work with Congress to pass legislation to prohibit profiling at all levels of law enforcement. I support expanding funding for body cameras along with policies to ensure consistent and responsible camera use. I will direct my administration to develop and apply evidence-based standards for the use of force for federal law enforcement — including incorporating proven approaches and strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives — and provide training and resources to help police departments meet them. At the federal level, I’ll prohibit permissive pursuit policies that often result in collateral damage, like high-speed chases and shooting at moving vehicles. And I’ll work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that training and technology deployed at the federal level can be implemented at all levels of government, helping to limit the use of force while maintaining safety for officers and the communities they are sworn to protect. My Justice Department will establish a rigorous and systematic process to collect data on fatal police shootings, ethics issues, misconduct complaints, or use of force incidents. We’ll use that data to inform expanded federal oversight. I’ll reverse the Sessions guidance limiting the use of consent decree investigations, and triple funding for the Office of Civil Rights to allow for increased investigations of police violence and death in custody. I also support qualified immunity reform to ensure that law enforcement officers who are found to have violated the Constitution are held accountable.