The work of law enforcement involves countless and risky low-visibility duties. Over the last three years, however, members of the public have brought increased attention to incidents of police-community conflict, violence, and misconduct, sparked by several high-profile deaths of people of color, many of them unarmed, during seemingly routine police encounters. These incidents—many of which were captured unfiltered on video and widely disseminated—have resulted in scrutiny of police officer behavior and, in particular, have reignited a debate over the extent to which police may use deadly force against civilians. At the same time, killings of police officers in New York City, Dallas, and Baton Rouge increased concerns about officer safety. Concerned that eroding public trust impedes relationship-building with the community, 34 states and the District of Columbia enacted at least 79 bills, executive orders, or resolutions in 2015 and 2016 to change some aspect of policing policy or practice—a marked contrast to the relatively few laws related to policing that were passed by states between 2012 and 2014.
By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to inform policymakers, law enforcement leaders, and members of the public who are looking to understand state-level changes in policing policy and practice.
States sought to improve policing practices around use of force, racial profiling, and vulnerable populations.
Legislation in 2015 and 2016 increased use of body-worn cameras, enhanced protections for public recordings of police, and created requirements for maintaining and reporting data on police operations.
States sought to improve accountability in instances of police use of force and misconduct cases, especially those incidents that result in death.
There are more than 18,000 individual police departments nationwide that are governed by cities and counties—meaning local jurisdictions are the main engine for police reform efforts.
Yet, in 2015 and 2016, 2/3 of states passed legislation that altered some aspect of law enforcement policy or practice
Significantly, 31 state laws established provisions for police body-worn cameras and their related footage to protect both the public and police.
Justice in Review
New Trends in State Sentencing and Corrections 2014-2015
In 2014 and 2015, 46 states enacted at least 201 bills, executive orders, and ballot initiatives to reform at least one aspect of their sentencing and corrections systems. In conducting this review of state criminal justice reforms, Vera found that most of the policy changes focused on three areas: creating or expanding opportunities to divert peop...
Sentencing and Corrections Trends Reports
Every year, Vera highlights trends in criminal justice legislation passed in the previous year and promising practices in the states. These reports share not only the reforms enacted in specific subject matters, such as mandatory sentencing or collateral consequences of criminal conviction, but also distill lessons based on the legislation itself a...
Compstat 2.0 is an effort to help law enforcement agencies integrate community policing strategies with existing Compstat (data-driven crime monitoring) processes. In partnership with the Police Foundation, Vera plans to develop, test, and implement a community policing model for nationwide adoption. While community...