House Democrats Announce “Justice in Policing Act”

  • The bill came after Minneapolis city councilors vowed to disband the city police force.
  • Mr. Floyd's brother is expected to testify before the House of Representatives later this week in a hearing on the police reform bill.
  • Some Republican leaders said they would consider writing their own bills, with a hearing scheduled to take place at the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives have just proposed a bill for broad police reform, after weeks of protests against the brutality and racism of police officers spread across the country. The bill will make it easier to prosecute police offenses and handle racist acts, as well as prohibit chokeholds.

George Floyd was an unarmed African-American man who died on May 25, 2020, after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for over seven minutes while other officers helped restrain Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota United States. Floyd’s death has been compared to the 2014 death of Eric Garner, who repeated “I can’t breathe” while being suffocated by arresting officers.

The bill came when Minneapolis city councilors vowed to disband the city police force. The death of George Floyd, at the hands of white police, has put pressure on the United States to change. However, it is not clear whether Republicans controlling the US Senate will support the bill, called the “Justice in Policing Act.”

The Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee also weighed in. “I don’t support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community,” he said.

Mr. Floyd’s brother is expected to testify before the House of Representatives later this week in a hearing on the police reform bill. The Justice in Policing Act was introduced by Democratic lawmakers on Monday, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

It was also put forward by African-American senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and other African-American legislators. In presenting the bill, Pelosi read the names of black men and women who have died by police hands in recent years.

The bill would force the federal police to use body cameras, as well as dash cameras in cars. It would also ban chokeholds and no-knock raids, and make it easier to hold police responsible for civil rights violations, and arrest them when they commit crimes. It also calls for a withdrawal of funding for local police if these reforms are not implemented.

The bill also makes lynching a federal crime, limits the sale of military weapons to the police, and gives the Department of Justice the authority to investigate state and local police to obtain evidence of bias or misconduct of an entire department. The bill also allows the creation of a “national police reporting system,” a database for police complaints.

Some Republican leaders said they would consider writing their own bills, with a hearing scheduled to take place at the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. However, Republicans are largely cautious in giving signals in support of the bill. In a move to separate himself from the party, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) on Sunday tweeted photos of himself marching in a Black Lives Matter rally.

“Defund the police” is a slogan which supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-police solutions such as social services and other community resources. “Defund the police” gained widespread popularity during the George Floyd protests.

The reform package, presented by Democratic leaders in Congress, can be seen as the “official” position of the party, at least to date. In part, it was an attempt to start the more drastic measures some left-wingers were pushing, about demanding they “Defund the Police.”

If Democrats can have the same voice, they will be able to get this reform bill passed in the House of Representatives, where they have a majority. The outlook is likely to be less rosy in the Republican-controlled Senate, especially if President Donald Trump finds political interest in trying to paint Democratic proposals as a threat to “Law and Order.”

While there is certainly plenty of rhetoric from national politicians during the presidential election season, the real change may come only from local officials who are directly responsible for the voters.

The call to disperse police in Minneapolis, while largely symbolic at this time, may indicate that far-reaching changes are most likely to occur in reality. This could be the beginning of a series of local experiments in police reform, in various forms, in different parts of the United States.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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