2016 Presidential Candidates on Police Reform

The 2016 Presidential Election marks a turning point on the nation’s view on police brutality. Historically, the issue of police reform is rarely covered during presidential debates. With increased coverage of national police misconduct scandals and Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Americans have become more skeptical of law enforcement and are demanding a national conversation about police reform.

As you decide who will get your vote, it’s important to consider where presidential candidates stand on these issues. In a three-part series, we will provide you with information about each candidate’s position on excessive force, community relations (including the Black Lives Matter movement), and mass incarceration. To begin, here’s a quick snapshot of what the presidential contenders have said about police/community relations, body cameras, and use of force standards.


Police – Community Relations

Body Cameras

Use of Force Standards
Hillary Clinton   Plans to train police officers on “issues such as effective policing approaches…including community policing and problem solving…”


Supports funding body cameras for all police departments Will create and promote national guidelines on the use of force for police officers
Bernie Sanders “I want police departments to look like their community, not like occupying forces.” Will require and federally fund body cameras for all police units “No person should have to worry that a routine interaction with law enforcement will end in violence or death.”


Jeb Bush
Ben Carson “has yet to see evidence that black men and women are being disproportionately targeted by law enforcement” “When you are given the authority and you are given a gun, that carries a tremendous responsibility and anybody who abuses that should be the dredge of the earth.”


Ted Cruz Called a hearing in November 2015 to announce that the Obama Administration is waging a war on police.


John Kasich Launched a statewide taskforce to reform relations between police and communities. Says he would sign legislation on body cameras advocated by Ohio democrats Signed an executive order calling for statewide standards for law enforcement.


Marco Rubio “It’s a serious problem in this country. There are a lot of different reasons for it. Not all of them have governmental answers.”


Donald Trump Advocates for federal funding for police body cameras, but will not require body cameras for all departments “Some horrible mistakes are made. At the same time, we have to give power back to the police, because crime is rampant.”


Unsurprisingly, Democratic contenders Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are more vocal about criminal justice reform than their Republican counterparts. In fact, some Republican candidates, for example Jeb Bush, are completely silent on these issues, while others refuse to even recognize that there is a problem. Ben Carson, for example, claims he has yet to see any evidence that there are racial disparities within law enforcement. Donald Trump believes law enforcement needs more protection, claiming that we must “give power back to the police” (as if it has ever been taken away). In November, Senator Ted Cruz led a hearing focused on the Obama administration’s alleged “war on police.”

Governor John Kasich is the only Republican candidate who acknowledges the need for police reform. As he has proved to do in the past, Kasich promises to work across the aisle and sign much needed legislation that encourages an improved community-police relationship and body camera requirements.

As for the Democratic candidates, both Sanders and Clinton focus on the need for police to build relationships with their own communities, national funding for body cameras, and national standards for the use of force. Where their positions differ is in the execution. However, after much research, it appears that neither candidate has provided specific ideas as to how she/he will combat this national epidemic if elected. The only substantive plan we’ve heard comes from Senator Sanders, who suggests that the federal government should offer more grant money to states and local municipalities that make progress on police reform issues and cut funds for those that do not. This is a start. But, as voters, we are still left with many unanswered questions. For example, we’d like to know the details that will turn this proposal into a reality. Tell us about the recruiting efforts they plan to put in place to encourage diversity within law enforcement and tell us about the mechanism that will be implemented to ensure that police departments are reporting accurate police shooting data. With primary elections in full swing, it’s time for candidates to take police reform seriously. We want to see each candidate’s twelve-point plan on police reform. We hope everyone demands the same.




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