Federal leaders introduce the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

By Lydia You

Rep. Karen Bass

Following weeks of nationwide protests and galvanized support for radical police reform following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and most recently, Rayshard Brooks, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass, Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler have introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, since renamed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“The world is witnessing the birth of a new movement in our country. Today we unveil the Justice in Policing Act, which will establish a bold, transformative vision of policing in America,” Bass said during a press conference on June 8. Bass’ 37th Congressional District includes West Los Angeles, Mar Vista and Culver City.

The act is a first-of-its-kind plan to hold police accountable through a series of sweeping reforms, which would “establish a national standard for the operation of police departments, mandate data collection on police encounters, reprogram existing funds to invest in transformative community-based policing programs, and streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations,” according to a fact sheet released with the proposed legislation.

The bill seeks to address police brutality through a number of concrete steps. Among the most salient are provisions that ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants at a federal level, and require that deadly force only be used as a last resort following a conscious effort to first employ de-escalation techniques. These reforms have been key points for activists, who have called for bans on unnecessarily violent and sometimes lethal policing tactics.

Furthermore, the bill hopes to enact lasting change in the policing system by increasing accountability and developing training to end racial profiling and discrimination. The bill will require all federal law enforcement to use body and dashboard cameras, collect data on investigatory activities, and establishes a national police misconduct registry to prevent officers from moving from department to department without consequence.

Beyond the police, the bill also recognizes the importance of supporting and funding community-based programs that are working to change the culture of their local police departments.

The bill has already garnered significant support among Democrats, with over 200 cosponsors in the House and Senate.

“For too long, Congress has failed to act. That ends today with the landmark Justice in Policing Act which, for the first time in history, will take a comprehensive approach to ending police brutality,” said Booker.

“Reforming policing is in the best interest of all Americans,” said California Senator Kamala Harris, “We know this is an issue that is not just at the federal level, but at the state and local level as well.” Indeed, while the bill is only able to directly influence policing at the federal level, it pushes local law enforcement to adopt similar measures through incentivized funding.

However, the bill was introduced last Monday with no Republican cosponsors, although House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reassured that “there’s time for bipartisan cooperation on this bill,” especially after a number of hearings and markup sessions scheduled for later this week.

Republicans cite concerns about the bill being too overreaching, instead advocating that states and localities make their own policies. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans unveiled the Justice Act, which would discourage, but not ban, police departments from using choke-holds and no-knock warrants.

“Now the movement for police accountability has become a rainbow movement, reflecting the wonderful diversity of our nation and our world,” said Bass, referring to the unprecedented numbers of non-black people marching for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Justice in Policing Act is slated for a vote on the House floor the week of June 22.