On Wednesday night, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a policing reform bill named for the Black man who was killed in May by a Minneapolis police officer. George Floyd’s murder sparked more than 7,000 demonstrations across the country with communities protesting police violence.
The bill seeks to ban chokeholds, end racial and religious profiling, prohibit certain no-knock warrants, and establish a national database to track police misconduct. The legislation also includes provisions to ease the process of holding individual police officers accountable for misconduct in court.
According to Mapping Police Violence, a database built by researchers Samuel Sinyangwe, Deray McKesson, and Johnetta Elzie, police killed 1,127 people in 2020. Though Black people comprise only 13% of the population, they account for 28% of police killings last year. And, in the thousands of killings by police since 2013, 99% have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime.
“To make our communities safer, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are entrusted to serve and protect,” the White House stated. “We cannot rebuild that trust if we do not hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct — and systemic racism — in police departments.”
In debate on the floor before the vote, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota stated that Minneapolis is still traumatized by Floyd’s death. “Time and time again we have witnessed the people who are sworn to protect our communities abuse their power,” she said.
The attorneys for George Floyd’s family said in a statement on Wednesday that the legislation “represents a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of color and impose accountability on law enforcement officers whose conscious decisions preserve the life or cause the death of Americans, including so many people of color.” Floyd’s family was at the Capitol yesterday for the debate and vote.
Sources: 117th Congress H.R. 1280; Washington Post 3/3/21; Time 9/5/20; Mapping Police Violence 2/16/21; CBS News 3/4/21; Twitter 3/4/21