On the Hill Politics Race

House Unveils Justice in Policing Act Amid National Protests

Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate unveiled legislation today to overhaul policing standards in response to nationwide protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality.

The Justice in Policing Act, led by Chairwoman Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), seeks to increase accountability in police brutality cases and bans certain abusive practices. Measures in the bill echo many demands in an earlier letter sent to Congress from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) co-signed.

The bill includes provisions that bans and criminalizes the use of chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants in drug cases, practices that killed George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, respectively. It also establishes a national registry of police misconduct, limits the transfer of federal military-grade weapons to local and state police, limits qualified immunity protections for police officers, and lowers the requirements necessary for the prosecution of police officers in brutality cases. A training program about racial bias and the duty to intervene will also be created. The bill does not provide funding for policing, but instead provides funds for community services.

“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. Today, with the Justice in Policing Act, Congress is standing with those fighting for justice and taking action,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emphasized at a press conference this morning announcing the introduction of this potentially transformative legislation.

While the Democrat-led House is likely to pass the bill, Republicans were not involved in the bill’s crafting and the GOP-led Senate’s response to the bill is unclear.

The bill is necessary to protect citizens’ rights, according to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is leading the Senate bill along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

“These are commonsense changes that, frankly, will create a far greater level of accountability for those police officers who violate the law, who violate our rights and who violate our common community standards,” Booker said in an interview with NPR.

National racial justice organization leaders Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Convener, Black Women’s Roundtable, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP, Marc H. Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League, Reverend Al Sharpton, president and founder, National Action Network issued a joint statement supporting the new legislation stating, “We express appreciation to Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Bass, Chairman Nadler, and Senators Booker and Harris, for their leadership to quickly and substantively meet this moment and address this pressing issue.  If Congress truly represents the will of the people, they must take action swiftly to ensure equality and justice for all.”

Sources: NPR 06/07/20; The Hill 06/08/20; NBC News 06/08/20; Feminist Newswire 06/01/20