criminal justice

Should the federal government develop a national standard for police use of force?

Yes

Yes

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet supports a federal police use of force standard, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bennet
Bennet

Pete Buttigieg

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

“Yes. [Buttigieg] will promote legislation that raises the legal standard under which officers are justified to use lethal force, and offer incentives for states and localities to adopt more restrictive policies,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “[Buttigieg] will also promote policies and training that require de-escalation efforts and limit lethal force to circumstances in which it is absolutely necessary.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Deval Patrick

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick supports a federal police use of force standard, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Deval Patrick
Patrick

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“Yes. As president, [Sanders] will establish national standards for use of force by police that emphasize de-escalation,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “We must hold police to a standard that ends harmful practices like racial profiling, stop and frisk, oppressive 'broken windows' policing, and the militarization of police forces — all of which actively undermine public safety and community trust in law enforcement. Excessive force and deadly shootings of unarmed civilians undermines public trust in the police.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

“Yes. America’s criminal justice system perpetuates a system of mass incarceration and punishment, not rehabilitation and restorative justice. This system was built on — and still suffers from — rampant racism,” Steyer told The Post. “The federal government needs to track and investigate deaths that occur in police custody. When police officers are breaking the law, they too must be prosecuted. We need to have a zero-tolerance policy for abuses of power. We need more effective training for police officers that is guided by an evidence-based national standard for the use of force, and incorporates proven strategies like de-escalation, verbal warnings, and non lethal alternatives, comprehensive cross-cultural communications, and greater diversity in policing departments.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“Yes. I will direct my administration to develop and apply evidence-based standards for the use of force for federal law enforcement, incorporating proven approaches and strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements and the use of non-lethal alternatives,” Warren told The Post. “I’ll work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that training and technology deployed at the federal level can be implemented at all levels of government, and reverse the Sessions guidance limiting the use of consent decree investigations to increase.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “Yes. Police culture in this country needs to be changed,” Williamson told The Post. “Police are permitted to go too quickly to the use of lethal force, compared to many other developed countries. We need more training, so police are more careful about whether and when to use lethal force.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Something else

Something else

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

“I support increased federal funding for police-training programs to encourage de-escalation and prevent racial profiling, as well as increased funding for police body cameras,” Delaney told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

Yang does not support a federal police use of force standard, but “would create federal guidelines that localities could adopt, while providing federal funding for local law enforcement agencies to participate in de-escalation, mental health, and LGBTQ+ competency-training courses, as well as funding for body cameras for all officers,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“All police departments should have uniform use-of-force policy, regularly train officers in de-escalation and ensure ranks reflect the communities they serve,” Biden told The Post. His campaign did not clarify if he supported a national use of force standard by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Mike Bloomberg

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg did not answer this question by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Michael Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard did not answer this question by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar did not answer this question by publication.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. Booker has introduced legislation to require law enforcement agencies to report use of force incidents. He did not answer this question by publication.

Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker
Booker

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Background There were 933 people shot and killed by police in 2019, including 41 who were unarmed, according to a Post database maintained since 2015. Standards for police conduct are largely set by the states and incident reporting to the federal government is limited. Some Democrats want to create a federal code of conduct for police and use federal funding to encourage adoption.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. criminal justice policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

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Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.