Democrats Introduce Police Reform Legislation
Some activists have called upon lawmakers to defund the police, but the bill stops short of removing money or adding any for reforming departments, a Senate Democratic aide told NBC News.
Democratic lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill Monday after the first full week of protests following the alleged murder of George Floyd. Before representatives and senators went their separate ways, they knelt together in a moment of silence in honor of George Floyd and other victims of law enforcement actions.
Remembering the Fallen
After kneeling together for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—the length of time Floyd was allegedly pinned under a cop’s knee—and reading names of others who suffered similar fates, legislators introduced bills in both chambers that is designed to reform law enforcement, The Associated Press reported.
Protestors have called on elected officials to make substantive changes for law enforcement, the Democrats’ legislation is the first such offering.
“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D–Cali., while introducing the Justice in Policing Act. The bill would restrict legal protections for officers and establish a nationwide database to catalog excessive-force incidents, Lisa Mascaro reported.
Relevant to the George Floyd case, the bill would also abolish the practice of police choke hold, NBC News reported. It would also prohibit no-knock warrants, such as the one executed in the case of Breonna Taylor, an innocent nurse who was killed when Louisville police mistook her house for a suspect’s, whom they already had in custody.
Taylor, unarmed, was shot eight times. Her boyfriend returned fire when police failed to identify themselves and was charged with attempted murder of a police officer after he wounded one of them, but that charge was later dropped, The New York Times reported.
The Justice in Policing Act would also make victims and their families eligible for recovering damages from police when. Their constitutional rights are violated. The change would walk back “qualified immunity” protections that law enforcement officers have enjoyed.
“The martyrdom of George Floyd gave the American experience a moment of national anguish as we grieve for the black Americans killed by police brutality today,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “This moment of national anguish is being transformed into a movement of national action as Americans from across the country peacefully protest to demand an end to injustice.”
She also declared that the House would hold hearings over the next few weeks to tweak the bill before voting on it. Floyd’s brother, Terrence is scheduled to testify before the House this week, BBC reported.
Some activists have called upon lawmakers to defund the police, but the bill stops short of removing money or adding any for reforming departments, a Senate Democratic aide told NBC News. President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden have both publicly opposed the idea, although Trump claimed Biden was in favor of it.
“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded,” said campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.
Utah Republicans May Help
The Democrats’ police reform bill also faces an uphill battle in the Senate, although some Republicans have said they would entertain the notion of creating their own legislation for police reform, according to BBC. Utah’s two Republican senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, could put their weight behind the bill based on recent behavior.
In December 2018, Lee co-sponsored a prison reform bill in a bipartisan effort, which saw the federal three strikes rule sentencing reduced from life to 25 years in prison, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Romney has also emerged as a potential supporter on the Republican side for the Justice in Policing Act. On Sunday, he joined activists in marching to the White House and tweeted photos captioned “Black Lives Matter.”
The effort to reform law enforcement at the federal level, while just beginning, already has earned the ire of Trump.
“This year has seen the lowest crime numbers in our Country’s recorded history, and now the Radical Left Democrats want to Defund and Abandon our Police. Sorry, I want LAW & ORDER!” Trump tweeted shortly after Democrats introduce the legislation.