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Where Do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Police Shootings?

The candidates have very different plans for action.

By Francie Diep


Activists protest in Times Square in response to the recent fatal shootings of two black men by police, July 7, 2016, in New York City. (Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

This week has brought the issue of police use of force sharply, and tragically, back into the news. In less than 48 hours, police officers in Louisiana and Minneapolis shot and killed two black American men in encounters that did not call for lethal force, while video of both incidents spread across the Web. In response, protestors marched in numerous American cities last night, including Baton Rouge; Minneapolis; New York; and Washington, D.C. In Dallas, a peaceful protest ended in horror when shooters began aiming at police in the crowd. Five officers were killed, seven officers were wounded, and two civilians were injured.*

At this critical juncture, we wondered what the presidential candidates planned to do to address tensions between police departments and American communities of color. Here’s what we found, based on published statements:

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

Clinton’s website offers a variety of specific ideas for reforming the American criminal justice system, including:

  • Investing in training police officers “on issues such as implicit bias, use of force, de-escalation, community policing and problem solving.”
  • Doubling funding for the Department of Justice’s “Collaborative Reform” program, which steps in, at the invitation of city police departments, to help departments identify and fix discriminatory practices.
  • Supporting “legislation to end racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.”
  • Providing federal matching funds for departments interested in buying body cameras for officers.
  • Gathering national statistics on police shootings, which no federal agency currently does.
  • Creating national guidelines for when and how police should use force.

Gary Johnson

Libertarian Party

Johnson has not regularly discussed police use of force, and as of Thursday evening, his “Issues” webpage did not mention police force. In a statement in January, Johnson said: “Far too many Americans are still being victimized by militarized police and heavy-handed laws.” On Thursday morning, Johnson told the Washington Post editorial board that racial disparities in police shootings have been the result of the war on drugs.

Jill Stein

Green Party

Stein supports the creation of police review boards, the investigation of all deaths at the hands of police, the demilitarization of police, and the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission — perhaps in the vein of a similarly named commission that the Canadian government formed to identify the government’s harmful policies in relation to Canada’s indigenous people.

After a video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black boy, was released last year, Stein published a statement criticizing both the Democratic and Republican parties for their criminal justice policies. “Only the Green party and Green candidates stand consistently for rolling back the bipartisan project of the prison state and its out of control police,” she said.

Donald Trump

Republican Party

Trump has made some statements regarding police violence, but we didn’t immediately find specific ideas for solutions from him.

On his issues page, he has a short video about law enforcement, in which he says: “The fact is, they do an incredible job. We have to give them more authority and we have to give them far more respect.”

In a debate hosted by ABC earlier this year, Trump acknowledged that, in any police force, “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.” Still, in a Fox-hosted debate a few weeks earlier, he said, “The police are the most mistreated people in this country.”

When asked explicitly about the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015, Trump said: “It’s a massive crisis. It’s a double crisis. I look at these things, I see them on television. And some horrible mistakes are made. But at the same time, we have to give power back to the police because crime is rampant.”



*Update— July 8, 2016: This post has been updated with the most recent tally of fatalities and injuries.