Republican U.S. Senate candidates on the issues: Racial equality and policing practices

Roeland Park plans to continue its conversation about the racial equity resolution with residents — particularly those of color — until at least the August city council meeting. Above, protesters gather for a Black Lives Matter protest in Shawnee. File photo.

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead of this summer’s primary elections. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for Republican candidates running for the United States Senate seat.

We’ll be publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we’re publishing the candidates’ responses item four:

In response to the national protests following the killing of George Floyd, President Trump has signed an executive order addressing police reforms. The order calls for improved credentialing of police departments, better tracking of complaints about officers who use excessive force, and better services to address issues like homelessness, mental health and drug addiction.

Will this adequately address concerns about police brutality? If not, what other steps should be taken?

Brian Matlock

We lock up more people than any country in the world. This is partly because we try to solve way too many of our problems through criminalization and enforcement. This strategy is expensive, it is ineffective, and it makes communities and police officers less safe. This includes how we deal with homelessness, how we deal with antisocial behaviors in children and youth, and how we deal with drug addiction. Each of those have evidence-based alternatives to policing that are far more safe, effective, and cost efficient. This tendency to fix social or public health problems through law enforcement has been particularly harmful in the face of racial segregation and the systematic disinvestment from communities of color.

Trump’s plan is evidence that the dedicated activism of people across the nation has been heard. Unfortunately at this point, the order is mainly symbolic with little real teeth to accomplish needed changes. Keep fighting!

The executive order’s focus is on training and the federal database, which are good things–but will not address the gravity of the necessary changes to how our society deals with social problems. The order mentions that Trump wants a proposal on better ways to deal with homelessness, addiction, and mental health and will hear those in the future. Any real meat to the order will come from that future proposal. Communities who have had a complete breach of trust with their law enforcement have been putting immense work into solutions for these problems for decades and they should be involved in the process of designing fixes that make it right.

We should direct funding to the programs and policies that produce the best results at the lowest cost. A well trained and equipped police force is extremely expensive, not to be compared with how expensive it is to lock up such a staggering percentage of our population. There are already evidence-based methods that exist to address homelessness, mental health treatment, addiction, anti-social behavior amongst children and youth, and economic disparity that cost considerably less and have considerably better outcomes–lower recidivism rates, lower rates of addiction and drug-related property crimes, more economic participation, safer and happier communities. If we addressed root causes instead of locking people up, this would drastically reduce our reliance upon law enforcement. A leaner force could allow for the recruiting of better officers, better training, and put officers in fewer conflictual situations. This will be safer both for police and for the general population.

Lance Berland

The George Floyd episode, is a complicated one. One criminal’s alleged death, under very strange circumstances, based on all the evidence and videos I have seen, has been used to push rioting, looting, lawlessness, and more unnecessary death. I believe the new reforms are valid and will help.

More importantly, the citizens need to do a better job of vetting their elected Mayors, to have responsible people of goodwill and good sense, at the head of Police departments. Good representatives will promote better policing.

David Lindstrom

President Trump has taken the steps to address an issue that no other president has taken in the past. I applaud his willingness to address this and believe it is a step in the right direction. We need to remember that the majority of law enforcement officers are doing their job and are an asset to the communities they serve. I thank them for their service and back the blue.

Roger Marshall

My father was the Police Chief in El Dorado, Kansas for 25 years. I grew up hearing stories of his and his fellow officers’ heroic actions. To me, this is personal. I will always view this from the eyes of a police officer’s son. I am grateful to all the men and women in law enforcement who make sacrifices each day to keep our families safe. I’m disgusted by the Democrats’ efforts to defund the police, and completely oppose this absurd idea.

I fully support President Trump’s executive order addressing police reforms. The murder of George Floyd was a horrible tragedy that can’t be repeated, and those officers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. However, we must remember that the vast majority of men and women in uniform are working to better their communities. We must restore law and order in our cities and work together to promote trust in law enforcement.

I was a co-sponsor of the JUSTICE act which would improve the performance of law enforcement, require greater transparency, and hold all law enforcement accountable to help increase public trust. At the same time we must keep qualified immunity in place to protect law enforcement when they are forced to make those split-second life threatening decisions. I was enraged when the Senate Democrats refused to debate or offer amendments to this meaningful legislation. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi once again decided to play politics instead of working on behalf of the American people.

Kris Kobach

I support President Trump’s proposals on police reforms. I am also a proponent of Sen. Tim Scott’s police reform bill which would have increased transparency related to use-of-force by police and incentivized departments to use body cameras. Unfortunately, Democrats in the Senate torpedoed Sen. Scott’s efforts, but I am hopeful he will continue pressing forward with his proposals.

John Berman

Did not respond.

Derek Ellis

Did not respond.

Bob Hamilton

Did not respond.

John Miller

Did not respond.

Steve Roberts

Did not respond.

Gabriel Mark Robles

Did not respond.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item five:

What type of health insurance policy should the federal government be following? Do you favor full repeal of the ACA? If so, what would you replace it with?

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Kris Kobach’s response and remove the incorrect text.