Monday, December 29, 2014

Blacks, Whites And Hispanics Agree Overwhelmingly On Need For Cop Body Cameras

New polling by The Washington Post-ABC News finds that public opinion about the police is split by race and party. Only about two in 10 blacks say that police treat whites and blacks equally, compared to about six in 10 whites. Among white Republicans, the fraction is more than eight in 10. The poll revealed similar disparities in opinion on the use of force by police, relations between law enforcement and communities, and whether the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. were isolated cases.

These results are about what you'd expect. After all, Americans' bitter differences of opinion on police violence and criminal justice have been impossible to escape in the past several weeks. Cops' silent protest during New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's speech at Officer Rafael Ramos's funeral on Saturday was only the most recent manifestation.

The rancor disappeared, though, when pollsters asked about body cameras. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed, including 85 percent of whites, 91 percent of blacks and 87 percent of Hispanics, said they supported requiring officers to wear cameras. Similarly large majorities agreed that any police killing of an unarmed civilian "should be investigated by an outside prosecutor who does not work with the police on a regular basis."

To be sure, it isn't clear that video evidence from body cameras or special prosecutors would limit police officers' broad discretion to use deadly force when they feel it is necessary, a power protected by law and precedent. But these reforms could at least give the public more confidence into investigations of police killings. In any case, it's encouraging that though Americans are open to new ideas about improving law enforcement, even if they don't agree about whether the police have a serious problem.

What's in Wonkbook: 1) De Blasio 2) Opinions, including Robert Rubin on incarceration and Noah Smith on taxes 3) Issa releases IRS report 4) House to change scoring rules 5) Christie and Cuomo veto a transportation reform bill, Dave Camp's last stand, and more

Number of the day: $298,500. That's former Florida governor Jeb Bush's compensation as a member of the board of Tenet Healthcare, a hospital company, last year. Tenet has benefited enormously from the Affordable Care Act, and Bush is cutting his ties with the group. Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

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