People Want To Know The Truth About Policing

By Nic Fishman (@njwfish)

It seems that every week, there’s another news story detailing horrifying misconduct or abuse by police somewhere in the US. Recently, the Justice Department declined to pursue charges against the police officer who murdered Eric Garner, again turning attention to police violence. Even in cases where police violence does not end in death, brutality and dishonesty by those who are tasked with public safety shocks the conscience.

But many of these stories remain hidden from public view. Lack of transparency and accountability often means that the public doesn’t hear the truth behind the news items for weeks, months, or years. In fact, the most cutting-edge criminal justice policy proposals indicate that changing the way we hold police officers accountable is central to reforming our broken criminal legal system, and suggest that it is central to ensure that “data, including demographic information,regarding all aspects of the criminal justice system — including arrests, prosecution decisions, law enforcement discipline and internal investigation records, and incarceration — is public and easily accessible to all.”

Supporting these proposals, our most recent research indicated that the public is fed up with the lack of transparency in police business.

In a survey conducted with YouGov Blue and advised by The Justice Collaborative, Data for Progress asked:

Would you support or oppose making public the details of internal police investigations that find evidence of misconduct, like committing perjury or filing a false report? Public disclosure would be limited to investigations that uncover evidence of wrongdoing.

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Overwhelmingly, people support making the details of police investigations public when misconduct is found. The consensus on this issue is clear: the public wants to know what’s happening in their local police precincts, and has decided it’s time for someone to watch the watcher.


Nic Fishman (@njwfish) is a senior adviser to Data for Progress.

On behalf of Data for Progress, YouGov Blue fielded a survey of US voters nationwide. The survey fielded 3/30/19-4/3/19 on 1,012 US voters. Responses were weighted to be representative of the national population of US voters by age, race, sex, education, and US Census region.

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