Democrats In Congress Unveil Police Reform Legislation

U.S. Capitol Building
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House and Senate Democrats unveiled police reform legislation that would ban racial profiling and prohibit federal law enforcement from using chokeholds to restrain suspects.

The bill, called the Justice In Policing Act, also would create a police misconduct registry, and make it easier to prosecute police abuse.

Also included is anti-lynching legislation, which stalled in the Senate last week. Other measures would place restrictions on the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement departments, and another to mandate the use of body cameras.

“Today, this movement of national anguish is being transformed into a movement of national action,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at a press conference.

Earlier, Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats kneeled in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds at Emancipation Hall at the Capitol. That is the length of time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee pressed against George Floyd’s neck after he was apprehended on Memorial Day. An autopsy showed that he died during the chokehold.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that “a profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession that requires highly trained officers who are accountable to the public.”

The bill has more than 200 co-sponsors in the House, and Schumer called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to put it up for a vote before July.

Pelosi called the legislation a “first step” in addressing racial justice measures, in the wake of protests across the country following the death of Floyd.

But key provisions already are running into opposition. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that the administration has not yet had time to review with bill, but she said that they would be opposed to reducing qualified immunity for police officers. The Democratic legislation would rollback that standard so that individuals can recover damages with police violate their constitutional rights.

Other proposals in the legislation include amending the federal criminal statute to make it easier to prosecute police misconduct. It would shift from a “willfulness” standard to a “recklessness” standard.

The text of the legislation is here.

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