The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, but is headed for a stall in the U.S. Senate. (Photo: iStockphoto/NNPA)
By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
The U.S. House of Representatives on June 25 passed Democrats’ police reform bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, by a 236-181 vote. Three Republicans joined Democrats to vote in favor of the bill, which now heads to the Senate, where it isn’t expected to get much traction.
The vote underscores an ongoing stalemate: Over the past few weeks, congressional Democrats and Republicans have been at an impasse over the next steps on police reform, with each party respectively introducing its own bill. Senate Democrats rejected Republicans’ proposal, the Justice Act, earlier this week, on the grounds that it wasn’t expansive enough in its policies. And Republicans are now poised to stall Democrats’ offering in the upper chamber, meaning progress on these reforms is effectively at a standstill
The George Floyd Justice In Policing Act is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the law enforcement culture, empower communities, and build trust between law enforcement and minority communities by addressing systemic racism and bias.
In a conference call with the Black Press of America just before voting on the measure, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said the bill should help save lives.
“This is a real historic day here in the capital as last week we introduced the Justice in Policing Act, and today we amend and pass the bill,” CBC Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said during the conference call.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would establish a national standard for the operation of police departments and mandate data collection on police encounters.
The act would reprogram existing funds to invest in transformative community-based policing programs and streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations.
It also would eliminate no-knock warrants and ban chokeholds.
“The idea that a chokehold is legal in one city and not the other, the idea that no-knock warrants are okay in one jurisdiction and not in another is very important. That must end,” Bass proclaimed.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020:
- Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling.
- Mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
- Requires law enforcement to collect data on all investigatory activities. saves lives by banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
- Bans chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning chokeholds.
- Bans no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning no-knock warrants at the local and state level.
- Requires that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first.
- Changes the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was “reasonable” to whether the force was “necessary.”
- Condition grants on state and local law enforcement agencies’ establishing the same use of force standard.
- Limits military equipment on American streets, requires body cameras.
- Limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
- Requires federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
- Requires marked federal police vehicles to have dashboard cameras.
- Hold police accountable in court.
- Makes it easier to prosecute offending officers by amending the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct. Enables individuals to recover damages in civil court when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement.
- Investigate police misconduct.
- Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
- Empower Our Communities to re-imagine Public Safety in an Equitable and Just Way.
- This bill reinvests in our communities by supporting critical community-based programs to change the culture of law enforcement and empower our communities to re-imagine public safety in an equitable and just way.
- It establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just, and equitable public safety approaches. These local commissions would operate similar to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
- Change the Culture of Law Enforcement with Training to Build Integrity and Trust.
- Requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century policing.
- Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices.
- Studies the impact of laws or rules that allow a law enforcement officer to delay answers to questions posed by investigators of law enforcement misconduct.
- Enhances funding for pattern and practice discrimination investigations and programs managed by the DOJ Community Relations Service.
- Requires the Attorney General to collect data on investigatory actions and detentions by federal law enforcement agencies; the racial distribution of drug charges; the use of deadly force by and against law enforcement officers; as well as traffic and pedestrian stops and detentions.
- Establishes a DOJ task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state, and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.
- Improve Transparency by Collecting Data on Police Misconduct and Use-of-Force.
- Creates a nationwide police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave one agency, from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
- Mandates state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
- Makes lynching a federal crime.
- Makes it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.