WASHINGTON DC – The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Justice in Policing Act,last night, June 25.
The bill passed with a vote of 236 to 181, with three Republicans joining the Democrats to vote in favor.
It now goes to the U.S. Senate.
The Justice in Policing Act is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable,end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives, according to the bill.
The Justice in Policing Act would:
1) establish a national standard for the operation of police departments;
2) mandate data collection on police encounters;
3) reprogram existing funds to invest in transformative community-based policing programs;
4) streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations.
The bill, titled the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, comes amid continuing protests against police brutality and racial violence that have rocked cities across the country.
Floyd, a black man, was killed in May by a now-fired Minneapolis police officer who pinned his knee to his neck for almost nine minutes.
“The death of George Floyd sparked an outcry across the nation and a movement that must be met with action. Today, House Democrats, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, answered that call by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,’ said Congresswoman Katherine Clark.
“For too long, our Black neighbors have been brutalized and killed, their bodies criminalized and their dreams upended, because of the color of their skin. With this bill, we begin to restructure and redefine public safety in America. The Justice in Policing Act will hold police accountable and systematically transform the relationship between law enforcement and our communities. We are changing the culture of policing from warrior to guardian,” said Rep. Clark. ““My vote is in honor of George, Breonna, Ahmaud, Trayvon, Elijah, Tamir and countless others who lost their lives to racism. With the passage of this bill, we begin our march forward towards real justice and equality for all.”
Among the provisions of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, state attorneys general would have the authority to conduct pattern-or-practice investigations into the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.
“Today we have the opportunity and the obligation to ensure that his death and the death of so many others is not in vain,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference on the steps of the Capitol Thursday morning before the vote.
Yesterday, marked exactly one month since Floyd was killed.
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass spearheaded the bill that would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases and reform qualified immunity, making it easier to pursue claims against police officers in civil court.
“A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession where you have highly trained officers who are accountable to the public,” Bass said at a press conference.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sent a letter to Congressional leadership earlier this month arguing that state attorneys general should have the authority to investigate and resolve patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing, particularly because the U.S. Department of Justice has failed to use its authority to act.
“If the Department of Justice isn’t going to do its job, then states need to have the power to investigate and take action,” AG Healey said. “This is about more than individual incidents and officers; we need to take a broader look at the systemic problems that lead to unconstitutional policing. I urge the Senate to pass this critical legislation. So much is at stake,” said Healey.
Joining Healey in calling on the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 are the attorneys general of Illinois, New York, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia
The legislation gives state attorneys general the authority to conduct patterns-or-practice investigations, issue subpoenas as part of the investigations, and, when necessary take action in federal district court.
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 will:
Work to End Racial & Religious Profiling
• 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.
Save Lives by Banning Chokeholds & 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-escalationtechniques 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.
Limit 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 Reimagine 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 reimagine 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.
Make Lynching a Federal Crime
• Makes it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.