Kamala Harris vs. Mike Pence: Where They Stand on Police Reform

By Jessica Swarner, Elle Meyers

August 11, 2020

Sen. Harris’ platform called for increasing police funding to use toward body cameras, officer wellness, and more.

While Vice President Mike Pence was campaigning in Arizona on Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. 

The two campaigns show stark differences when it comes to criminal justice reform, with President Donald Trump and Pence painting Biden and his supporters as enemies of the police. The attacks have been largely unpopular in Arizona, where even Trump supporters thought the president’s attacks on Biden’s police policies were, “very far from reality.”

During Pence’s visit with the Arizona Police Association, he accused Biden and other Democrats of not supporting law enforcement. 

“Joe Biden and the radical left say that we have to choose between supporting our police or supporting all the families of our communities,” Pence said. “The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and supporting our African American neighbors. We have done both. We can do both.”

However, Biden has said he does not support defunding law enforcement and would actually like to see them given more money to enact reform. 

Harris’ platform when she ran as the Democratic presidential nominee earlier this year didn’t specifically address calls to defund the police. That became part of the national conversation after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers at the end of May, and Harris exited the race in December 2019. 

Her platform did include plans to increase funding for departments to purchase body cameras, address officer wellness, and develop civilian oversight programs.

When she has been asked about defunding police since then, she has not given a clear answer but called for re-examining how taxpayer money is used in terms of law enforcement.

Harris, like Biden, does want to see law enforcement enact certain reforms, including prioritizing rehabilitation over imprisonment for drug offenses, decriminalizing marijuana and expunging related convictions, and ending the cash bail system and use of private prisons. 

A Background in the Law

When it comes to criminal justice, Harris has lots of experience. 

Before she was elected to represent California in the Senate in 2016, she served as the state’s Attorney General and San Francisco’s District Attorney.

After leaving the presidential race herself, she endorsed Biden in March.

“I believe in Joe,” Harris said in her endorsement. “I really believe in him and I’ve known him for a long time.”

Harris supports policies like Medicare for All, fair prescription drug prices, and has a special interest in reforming America’s criminal justice system, given her experience as attorney general.

“At its best, the system serves to hold serious wrongdoers accountable and achieve justice for crime survivors, while helping to build safer and healthier communities,” Harris wrote on her campaign website

“At its worst, decades of failed policies have created an unjust, unequal, and vastly expansive system that disproportionately harms communities of color and criminalizes individuals just because they are poor.”

Harris also has outlined plans for how best to address climate change, gun violence and close the opportunity gap between students. 

If elected, Harris would be the first female, first Black and first Indian vice president. She is of Jamaican and Indian descent, and has said that her unique background is helpful to fight for marginalized groups.

Harris’s critics on the left say she is not as progressive as criminal justice reform advocates would like, pointing to her record on the death penalty and inmates who were proved innocent of their charges. But in a 2016 interview with the New York Times, Harris said she was a progressive working within a system she felt needed to change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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