Overwhelming Support For Non-Police First Responder Agency: Poll

People in the U.S. overwhelmingly support the creation of a new non-police first responder agency to deal with community issues, a new poll has found.

Weeks of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd has increased scrutiny on the country's police departments with many calling to "defund the police."

Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes while he gasped for air. Police had been called after Floyd allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store.

The fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was killed by police while fleeing after a struggle with officers following a field sobriety test in Atlanta, Georgia last week has further raised concerns that armed officers can escalate situations where they aren't needed.

Earlier this month, Data for Progress polled voters on their thoughts on how police departments could be reformed.

They were asked: "Some are proposing the creation of a new agency of first-responders, like emergency medical services or firefighters, to deal with issues in the community that need to be remedied but do not need police. Would you support or oppose calling such an agency?"

The survey found that 58 percent of Americans said they would support calling such an agency to deal with issues without police involvement, including 25 percent who said they would "strongly support" it.

The support for such an agency is even higher among Democrats—73 percent support the proposal while only 15 percent oppose. But almost half of Republicans also back the idea, with 47 percent expressing support and 38 percent opposing it.

In the survey, conducted from June 4 to June 6, Data for Progress also 1,352 people how they would prefer specific situations to be handled.

Around a third (36 percent) of people said a non-police first responder agency should always or mostly handle situations where the suspect is unarmed—while 23 percent said such situations should always be always be handled by police and another 26 percent said they think it should be mostly handled by police.

The poll found a majority of people (62 percent) believe a non-police first responder agency should always or mostly handle the provision of shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Only 11 percent said that the issue should always be handled by police.

The survey also found that a majority of people (61 percent) think non-police first responders should always or mostly be the ones to offer aid when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.

Some also said they think non-police first responders should be the ones to investigate crimes that aren't violent. Twelve percent said non-police responders should always handle non-violent crimes and another 26 percent said they should mostly deal with them. Around a quarter of people (23 percent) said police should always investigate non-violent crimes.

More than a third of people (37 percent) said traffic violations and drunk driving incidents should always be handled by police while only 8 percent said it should always be a non-police first responder agency.

"As America continues to grapple with the role of police and with different visions of community safety, our findings show that voters of both parties support creating a nonpolice first-responder agency, and a majority of voters would prefer nonpolice first responders respond to several common situations to which police currently respond," Data for Progress wrote in a summary of the poll results.

"For elected officials looking to strengthen their communities and take action in the face of mass protest on police brutality, creating a nonpolice first-responder agency proves to be a popular option that deserves their attention."

Defund police
A protester holds up a homemade sign during a protest in New York City on June 12, 2020. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images