Democratic leaders of the U.S. House and Senate on Monday introduced legislation aiming at reforming policing policies in the country, addressing some of the key concerns of the nationwide protests following the death of Minneapolis black man George Floyd under police custody.
The legislation, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, was announced at a news conference attended by Chair of Congressional Black Caucus Karen Bass, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as other senior Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.
“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change,”
Pelosi said when introducing the bill. “Police brutality is heartbreaking reflection of an entrenched system of racial injustice in America. True justice can only be achieved with full comprehensive action. That’s what we are doing today. This is a first step.”
According to the text of the 136-page Justice in Policing Act of 2020 cited by U.S. media, the bill will make it easier to prosecute police misconduct and recover damages caused by law enforcement.
It will create a National Police Misconduct Registry, mandating state and local law enforcement to turn over data on the use of force related to such factors as race, gender, disability, religion and age, while preventing “problem officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability.”
The proposed law will ban certain policing tactics, including chokeholds – as was applied in Floyd’s case where he was pinned down by a police officer who knelt on his neck – and no-knock warrants in drug cases, meaning cops can’t barge into people’s homes without knocking on the door.
While requiring that federal police officers wear body and dashboard cameras, the bill also sets restrictions on the transfer of military-grade weaponry to state and local law enforcement. At the same time, it will make lynching a hate crime, but it remains to be seen if this section will receive support from the Republican-controlled Senate, which failed to pass an anti-lynching bill last week.
Additionally, the legislation seeks structural reform within the Justice Department by giving its Civil Rights Division subpoena power. Meanwhile, it will incentivize attorneys general at the state level to launch pattern and practice investigations into police departments in their constituencies, and provide grants for states to set up structures for probing police-involved deaths.
One area that the bill stops short of addressing directly, though, is defunding police departments, a demand of the recent protests that has gained traction nationwide. The Minneapolis City Council on Sunday voted to dissolve the city’s police department, the epicenter of demonstrations.
she hopes that when the House passes the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “must swiftly take it up,” and that President Donald Trump “must not stand in the way of justice.”
As part of the legislation effort, House Judiciary Committee will hold an oversight hearing Wednesday on policing practices and law enforcement accountability. Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, is among the witnesses to testify at the hearing.
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