Democrats proposed a far-reaching overhaul of police procedures and accountability June 8, a sweeping legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of Black Americans in the hands of law enforcement.
The bill, called the “Justice in Policing Act,” would ban chokeholds, including the kind used by a then-Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd last month, as well as no-knock warrants in drug cases, as was used in the incident leading to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, in March.
“America has a serious and deadly problem when it comes to the discriminatory and excessive policing of communities of color,” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said. “And that policing exists within a system that time and again refuses to hold police accountable for their brutality.”
According to a House Judiciary Committee press release, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 takes the following steps to hold police accountable:
•Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from discriminatory profiling, and mandates training for all law enforcement.
•Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level (not the state and local level, that’s up to state and local governments) and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement. The feds have been dumping excess military-style equipment with local and state policing authorities.
•Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
•Establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
•Amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct. Willful, which is intentional, misconduct is much tougher to prove than negligence. Currently, plaintiffs must prove a cop intentionally acted in order to sue and collect damages for a police person’s actions.
•Reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights. Current qualified immunity law shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations and, ultimately, money damages under federal law as long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law.
•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.
•Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s task force on 21st century policing.
In 2015, the task force created in response to the unrest in Ferguson, MO, developed and released an implementation guide of best police practices. The final report called for, among other things, more data on police shootings and on civilians’ attitudes toward the police, as well as for the removal of policies that reward police who produce more arrests and convictions.
•Requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, dis-aggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, and age.
•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.
•Establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.