Following protests across the country over excessive force by police, Sen. Cory Booker helped introduce a sweeping measure aimed at holding law enforcement accountable and building trust with the community.
Unveiled June 8 by Democrats in Congress, the Justice in Policing Act 2020 would ban chokeholds, including the kind used by a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd, and no-knock warrants in drug cases, which was used in the incident leading to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY.
Following its introduction, Booker described it as “landmark” legislation that will “for the first time in history (adopt a) comprehensive approach to ending police brutality.”
House, Senate Sponsors
“America has a serious and deadly problem when it comes to discriminatory and excessive policing of communities of color—and that policing exists within a system that time and again refuses to hold police accountable for their brutality,” the senator said.
Other sponsors include Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Reps. Karen Bass of California and Jerry Nadler of New York.
At a press conference unveiling the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was a “first step” in targeting systemic racism in the U.S.
“Police brutality is a heartbreaking reflection of an entrenched system of racial injustice in America,” Pelosi said. “True justice can only be achieved with full, comprehensive action. That is what we are doing today. There is more to come.”
According to Booker, the bill “fixes” federal laws so “police abuses are better tracked and reported….(improving) police practices and training to prevent these injustices from happening in the first place.”
Besides banning chokeholds by police and barring “no-knock” warrants, the Justice in Policing Act would establish a national database for tracking police conduct, according to a draft of the bill.
Additionally, the proposed law seeks to make it easier to pursue legal damages when police violate civil rights, end racial profiling and racial bias in policing and limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to local and state police departments.
Other aspects of the proposal include:
- Allowing deadly force only as a last resort and requiring police to first try to de-escalate a situation
- Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras and requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to acquire body cameras
- Making lynching a federal crime
Menendez, Sherrill Support
The measure is supported by 33 senators and 164 representatives, including New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Mikie Sherrill.
“While the overwhelming majority of police officers are good and just and risk their lives to protect us, their jobs are made that much harder by those who abuse their power,” Menendez said in a statement.
“This bill will help solve some of the institutional problems ingrained in our policing system by weeding out bad actors and ensuring officers terminated for police abuses don’t end up on the force in other jurisdictions.”
Menendez said he believes the proposal offers “sensible, reasonable reforms” that could be the first step toward restoring confidence “in a system that has historically had a heavier hand against black and brown Americans.”
Sherrill said she was proud to back the effort and believes it “another step in the fight for justice in this country.”
“I have seen the best of our law enforcement community and the commitment that they have made to the public’s safety. But I’ve also seen too many examples of where our system falls desperately short. One of the reasons I was drawn to public service was the need for criminal justice reform at the federal level,” she said.
It is unclear if the law enforcement community or police unions will back any of the proposed changes, but the Justice in Policing Act already has the support of several civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
A representative for Joe Biden said the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee “fully supports” the measures outlined in the bill.
“Systemic racism and inequality have plagued our country for generations, and the time for talk is over,” the statement said. “Americans want action.”