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Public opinion concerning policy issues.

During my reading this week public opinion seemed to live or die by volume in terms of its effectiveness. A large group that is united in it’s opinion on a topic can push change, but a large group broken up into several smaller opinion groups can cause a slow down in policy setting by voicing different ideas, concerns, and options. Kingdon pointed out that public opinion is usually “rarely well enough formed to directly affect an involved debate among policy specialists over which alternative should be seriously considered” (Kingdon, 2003, p 66). I can see how public opinion can be both informative and confusing for public officials at the same time.

When considering situations where public opinion succeeded in swaying public policy and/ or sent a clear message- Ireland’s vote to amend their constitution and approve same sex marriage came to mind. This historic moment occurred on May 23, 2015 and it is the first time a nation has legalized same sex marriage through a popular vote. Social media was used heavily by people on both sides leading up to the vote. I feel that this is a good example of the public voicing a desire for change, spreading their message to gain support, and following through in large numbers. In terms of influencing change with political leaders, Ireland’s Minister for Health Leo Varadkar revealed that he was gay for the first time during the campaign.

This is a prime example of what public opinion can do when the people are able to agree on a policy change. The vote in Ireland was years, likely decades, in the making and there were political, activist, and public groups on both sides of the argument working to forward their agendas and ideas. I feel that public opinion was a huge factor in carrying the yes vote.

You can watch a news video about the vote here:

(R2) 245 words

 After reading this discussion post I knew immediately what I wanted to center my discussion post about. Being that my area of concentration is going to be criminal justice, I can’t help but bring up police reform. Police reform is a big topic in the U.S. right now. Understandably, many cities across the nation want more accountability for the police. I work for a police department and I can tell you, I support accountability for the use of deadly force in police departments. I also strongly support the prosecution of officers found to abuse their powers and position. So this brings me to the “8 Can’t Wait” movement. This movement is a project by Campaign Zero that is trying to bring change to police departments by using their voice and the voice of citizens to demand change in the legislature and at the department level for restrictions on the use of deadly force. The 8 things this campaign asks for are to require de-escalation, require a duty to intervene, ban chokeholds and strangleholds, require warning before shooting, ban shooting at moving vehicles, and to exhaust alternatives before shooting. More on these questions and the research behind them can be found at https://8cantwait.org/ (Links to an external site.). When this movement first began, I found my email overflowing with letters from individuals demanding that these 8 things be implemented into LVMPD’s policy as well as be implemented into law. These emails and voices of the community asking for change have actually influenced change in many police departments across the nation already. In Nevada they even introduced a police reform bill into the 32nd special session that would be known as AB3. https://lasvegassun.com/news/2020/jul/31/police-reform-bill-introduced-in-nevada-assembly/ (Links to an external site.) The article at this link talks about the bill that was introduced and some of the things it would change in legislature, most notably a ban on chokeholds (one of the 8 can’t wait demands). I am very proud to say I work for a department who does not and did not authorize chokeholds to be utilized. And any officer who did use a chokehold, was disciplined appropriately. This bill further goes on to require any police officer witnessing misconduct to step in and stop it (another 8 can’t wait demand). AB3 also requires reporting on use of force incidents (another 8 can’t wait reform). Some things AB3 put into law that weren’t asked for by 8 can’t wait are the right of citizens to record officer actions in public, and for officers of any rank to be drug and alcohol tested immediately after being involved in an incident that results in substantial bodily harm. While I could go on and on about this topic, I think it is evident that this piece of legislation was as a result of the media, public opinion, and special interest groups. Sometimes using your voice really does bring change. I am also happy to say that many of these reforms that are now in law were already in my police department’s policy as we try to be a very forward thinking, learning agency. 

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