The Campaign Trail: The 2016 Presidential Candidates on Policing

While other advocacy organizations and news outlets have compiled the 2016 presidential candidate’s views on criminal justice reform, I attempted to document what the candidates and their campaigns have said specifically about policing. Below you will find each candidate’s policing policy positions (if they have them), and some of the things he/she has said about policing out on the campaign trail. (Nothing here is intended as an endorsement, and though I’ve attempted to give a representative sample, this compendium is not comprehensive.) The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name within their party.

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© Wikimedia, content modified and licensed under Creative Commons

Donald Trump

His Policy Positions/What’s on His Website:

Trump doesn’t list any explicit policy positions on his website. However, he has noted that as President, he would sign an executive order that states that anyone who kills a police officer will be put to death. His website features a link to his endorsement from Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the New England Police Benevolent Association. Trump recently released a video about law enforcement noting that “we have to give them more authority, and we have to give them far more respect.”

What He’s Said:

“I am a big, big supporter of the police. I think the police are being treated horribly in this country. And certainly, you have some bad acts and you have bad mistakes made on occasion. It’s a tiny fraction compared to the great work that they do.” February 18, 2016, South Carolina Town Hall

“The police in this country have done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order, and they’re afraid for their jobs, they’re afraid of the mistreatment they get, and I’m telling you that not only, me speaking, minorities all over the country, they respect the police of this country and we have to give them more respect. February 6, 2016, New Hampshire Republican Debate

Regarding excessive force: “We don’t want excessive force. But at what point — you know, either you’re going to have a police force that can do its job…They want to do their job. And you’re going to have abuse and you’re going to have problems, and you’ve got to solve the problems and you have to weed out the problems. But the police in this country are absolutely amazing people.” February 6, 2016, New Hampshire Republican Debate

On the Texas state trooper who pulled over Sandra Bland: “I am a huge fan of the police. I think the police have to be given back power. But this guy was overly aggressive, terribly aggressive.” July 22, 2015, Interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper

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© Wikimedia, content modified and licensed under Creative Commons

Hillary Clinton

Her Policy Positions/What’s on Her Website:

Clinton has a page on criminal justice reform. It includes that she will invest in new training programs, collect and report national data on policing, and support body worn cameras, in addition to a host of other policy positions.

Clinton also has a page on racial justice that says this about policing:

“Strengthen bonds of trust between communities and police. African American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men found guilty of the same offenses. From Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable. Black lives matter. Everyone in this country should stand firmly behind that. Hillary believes that effective policing and constitutional policing go hand-in-hand—we can and must do both. As president, Hillary will invest in law enforcement training programs on issues such as implicit bias, use of force, and de-escalation. She will also create national guidelines for use of force, provide federal matching funds to make body cameras available to every police department in America, and support legislation to ban racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

Clinton has a page on LGBT equality, with this issue about policing:

“As president, she will work to protect transgender individuals from violence by directing the government to collect better data regarding crime victims and seeking to improve reporting of hate crimes; streamline identity documents to remove barriers to transgender Americans changing their gender marker on identification documents; and invest in law enforcement training focused on fair and impartial policing, including in interactions with LGBT individuals. Hillary will invest in law enforcement training that focuses on issues such as implicit bias, use of force, and de-escalation, as well as fair and impartial policing including in their interactions with the LGBT community, in particular transgender individuals. It will also focus on educating police officers on correctly identifying bias-motivated crimes.”

Clinton also has a factsheet on ending the school-to-prison pipeline where she addresses improving School Resource Officers (SROs) and eliminating the transfer of federal military equipment to, and its use by, police departments under school district control.

Her website has a post from Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, and another from when she sat down with women whose children have been killed by gun violence (including some by police offers), a post about an incident with a SRO at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, and support from Eric Holder.

What She’s Said:

“Let’s the end the epidemic of African-Americans being killed by police or dying in custody

…Now I think you know, because I sure believe, there are many police officers out there every day inspiring trust and confidence, putting themselves on the line to save lives. So let’s learn from those who are doing it right and apply those lessons across the country. Let’s make sure the Justice Department has the resources to hold departments like Ferguson’s accountable when they do it wrong.” February 16, 2016, Remarks in Harlem, New York

“First, we need smart strategies to fight crime that help restore trust between law enforcement and our communities, especially communities of color. There’s a lot of good work to build on. Across the country, there are so many police officers out there every day inspiring trust and confidence, honorably doing their duty, putting themselves on the line to save lives. There are police departments already deploying creative and effective strategies, demonstrating how we can protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force. We need to learn from those examples, build on what works. We can start by making sure that federal funds for state and local law enforcement are used to bolster best practices, rather than to buy weapons of war that have no place on our streets. President Obama’s task force on policing gives us a good place to start. Its recommendations offer a roadmap for reform, from training to technology, guided by more and better data. We should make sure every police department in the country has body cameras to record interactions between officers on patrol and suspects. That will improve transparency and accountability, it will help protect good people on both sides of the lens. For every tragedy caught on tape, there surely have been many more that remained invisible. Not every problem can be or will be prevented with cameras, but this is a commonsense step we should take. The President has provided the idea of matching funds to state and local governments investing in body cameras. We should go even further and make this the norm everywhere. And we should listen to law enforcement leaders who are calling for a renewed focus on working with communities to prevent crime, rather than measuring success just by the number of arrests or convictions. April 29, 2015, Remarks at Columbia University, New York

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© Wikimedia, content modified and licensed under Creative Commons

Bernie Sanders

His Policy Positions/What’s on His Website:

Sanders website features a section on racial justice that addresses policing issues heavily. It calls for more community policing, demilitarization of police forces, new rules on use of force, and mandating body worn cameras, in addition to a host of other policy positions.

Sanders website also marked the one-year anniversary of Ferguson and noted the importance of Black Lives Matter.

What He’s Said:

“I join with those calling for a federal investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department. Furthermore, any official who helped suppress the videotape of Laquan McDonald’s murder should be held accountable. And any elected official with knowledge that the tape was being suppressed or improperly withheld should resign. No one should be shielded by power or position.” December 4, 2015, Press Release

“What you saw is an aggressive, overactive police officer who dragged this woman out of her car, assaulted her, sent her to jail for what crime? A minor traffic violation… That happens all over this country, and it especially happens to people of color. Lives are being destroyed, right and left… And we’ve got to change that… Our criminal justice system is out of control, the number of African-Americans and Hispanics who are in jails is disproportionately high… We have more people in jail than any other country on earth. Millions of lives have been destroyed because people are in jail for non-violent crimes, so we have to take a look at mandatory minimums and the drug policy and the militarization of police forces all over the country. We have to take a look at use-of-force policy. That is what you saw in that dreadful and painful video of Sandra Bland. We need a real hard look at the way police departments function in America.” July 22, 2015, Interview with Ed Schultz

“This video of the arrest of Sandra Bland shows totally outrageous police behavior. No one should be yanked from her car, thrown to the ground, assaulted and arrested for a minor traffic stop. The result is that three days later she is dead in her jail cell. This video highlights once again why we need real police reform. People should not die for a minor traffic infraction. This type of police abuse has become an all-too-common occurrence for people of color and it must stop.” July 21, 2015, Press Release

5/5/16: post has been updated to reflect Gov. John Kasich suspending his campaign.