Top congressional Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus announced a new bill to reform policing following weeks of national protests over police brutality. After first kneeling in silence to honor George Floyd, the Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer two weeks ago, Democrats introduced new legislation called the “Justice in Policing Act.”
The bill, according to NPR, would prohibit police from using choke-holds, create a national registry to track police misconduct, lower legal standards to pursue criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct and ban certain no-knock warrants.
Chairwoman of the CBC, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), whose committee took the lead in drafting the legislation, called it a “transformative vision of policing in America.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kamala Harris, and Sen. Cory Booker took part in the press conference where the bill was announced on Monday.
Harris bluntly said, “We are here because Black Americans want to stop being killed.”
Pelosi spoke about how the “martyrdom of George Floyd” has been transformed into a national movement for change.
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“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. “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.”
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the bill and listen to testimony on police brutality and racial profiling on Wednesday.
“Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets in Minneapolis, the slow murder of an individual by a uniformed police officer,” Bass said.
In response to the bill, the ACLU issued a statement criticizing the proposed legislation for adding funds to police budgets. “The bill introduced today takes significant steps to protect people and ensure accountability against police violence,” Kanya Bennett, ACLU senior legislative counsel said. “But the legislation also provides hundreds of millions more to law enforcement, and for the ACLU, that’s a nonstarter. While many of the reforms in this bill are laudable and vital, more must be done to change the role of police in our society fundamentally.”
Whether Republicans will support the bill is unknown. Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “It’s something we need to take a look at.”
On Sunday, Attorney General Bill Barr would not admit that policing has a significant racism problem, telling CBS News, “I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist.”
The lived experiences of Black people in America, however, say otherwise.
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