police reform

Protests Are Already Paying Off With New Police Reform Initiatives

Policy changes that usually take months or years to push through are being enacted in just days and weeks

protest for Black Lives Matter for NBCLX

America isn’t just paying attention to racial inequality like never before; elected officials are working faster – and across the aisle – on the issue in ways they haven’t in generations.

Here are three good signs police protests are already having a positive impact:

Public policy changes

Talk is nice, but in a matter of just one week, nearly a dozen major cities across the U.S. – as well as New York state and California – have banned controversial carotid neck restraints, the same kind that killed George Floyd.

Many are also adopting “duty to intervene” policies that will require cops to step in if a fellow officer is using excessive force.

New York State also passed a series of bipartisan criminal justice reforms that would finally make officer discipline records public and ensure that police officers provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody.

And in Washington, many of the leading lawmakers who have stood in the way of criminal justice reforms are actively working with rivals across the aisle to pass legislature to reduce racism.  GOP proposals, drafted by the Senate’s only Black Republican, Tim Scott (R-S.C.), will reportedly include grant money for local agencies to hire more minority officers, requirements to report shootings and data on no-knock warrants, and a rule to classify lynching as a federal hate crime.

America has favorable view of Black Lives Matter

Support for the George Floyd protests among U.S. adults grew by 8 points in less than a week, according to data intelligence company Morning Consult.  Sixty-two percent of respondents indicated support for the protests, while just 19% said they opposed the protests, in a poll taken June 3-5.

And support for the Black Lives Matter movement has grown significantly as well, with 61% of U.S. adults indicating a favorable view of BLM, compared to 30% who said they had an unfavorable view, according to a June 2020 Morning Consult/POLITICO survey.  When the same poll was taken in August 2017, only 37% of U.S. adults responded with favorable views of the movement, compared to 48% who had an unfavorable view at the time.

More body cameras are coming

Only a fraction of America’s cops currently wear cameras, but studies have shown they provide benefits for civilians and police alike.  In addition to transparency and accountability when officers misbehave, the technology also is proven to reduce incidents where officers use force, as well as reduce the number of unfounded complaints citizens make against officers.

One major hurdle to the expansion of cameras has always been the cost of the devices, as well as data storage.  But local governments, from Tampa to New York State to Philadelphia, are approving funding to make sure more officers are wearing cameras. Some are also addressing policies that didn’t penalize officers for turning the cameras off.

Sen. Scott’s federal proposal is also expected to include money for agencies across the country to purchase more cameras.

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