Following weeks of nationwide protests and galvanized support for radical police reform resulting from the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass, Sens. Corey Booker and Kamala Harris, and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, since renamed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, with local Reps. Adam Schiff and Judy Chu among the 230 House cosponsors.
“We can and must do better for those suffocating on our city streets, whether under the knee of a racist cop, or from a system of justice that has perpetuated inequality and injustice,” said Schiff, whose district includes portions of Pasadena, on an appearance on Good Day LA.
“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,” said Rep. Karen Bass, who’s spearheading the bill and whose district includes West Los Angeles, Mar Vista, Culver City and Palms, in a press conference on June 8. The act is a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive plan to hold police accountable through a series of sweeping reforms, which call to “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 press materials released with the 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 employ de-escalation techniques first. These reforms have been a top fighting point 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 and collect data on investigatory activities. The bill will also establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent officers from moving from office to office without consequence.
Beyond the police, the legislation 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.
“Reforming policing is in the best interest of all Americans,” said 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.
“We also need allies in state and local government to step up, implement reforms, and realign priorities. There’s a true crisis in American law enforcement right now. Through these reforms, we can not only restore confidence, but ensure policing actually works to protect communities of color and all Americans,” said Chu, who also represents Pasadena.
However, the bill was introduced on Monday, June 8 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.
Republicans cite concerns about the bill being too overreaching, instead advocating that states and localities make their own policies. Last Wednesday, Senate Republicans unveiled the Justice Act, which would discourage, but not ban, police departments from using choke-holds and no-knock warrants.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying that the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have electrified the nation and incited fierce cries for swift and sweeping reform. “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 bill recently passed the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 24 to 14, and was slated for a vote on the House floor this week.
A version of this article originally appeared in The Argonaut, a Times Media Group sister publication of Pasadena Weekly.