WASHINTON, D.C. — Yesterday, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined U.S. Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), as an original cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill is the first comprehensive legislative approach to ending police brutality and changing the culture of law enforcement departments by holding police accountable in court for egregious misconduct, increasing transparency through better data collection and improving police practices and training.
“We must end police brutality and systematic racism in policing,” said Senator Casey. “It is time for us to create structural change that safeguards every American’s right to safety and equal justice. I am proud to cosponsor the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which will hold police accountable and improve transparency in policing.”
“America has a serious and deadly problem when it comes to the discriminatory and excessive policing of communities of color – and that policing exists within a system that time and again refuses to hold police accountable for their brutality,” Senator Booker said. “For too long, this has been accepted as a cruel reality of being black in this country. We are forced to figure out how to keep ourselves safe from law enforcement and we are viewed as a threat to be protected against instead of people worth protecting.
“And 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. On the back-end, the bill fixes our federal laws so law enforcement officers are held accountable for egregious misconduct and police abuses are better tracked and reported. And on the front-end, the bill improves police practices and training to prevent these injustices from happening in the first place.”
“America’s sidewalks are stained with Black blood,” Senator Harris said. “In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders, we must ask ourselves: how many more times must our families and our communities be put through the trauma of an unarmed Black man or woman’s killing at the hands of the very police who are sworn to protect and serve them? As a career prosecutor and former Attorney General of California, I know that real public safety requires community trust and police accountability. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this historic legislation that will get our country on a path forward.”
Specifically, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would:
- Hold police accountable in our courts by:
- Amending the mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct, from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;
- Reforming qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that as currently interpreted shields law enforcement officers from being held legally liable for violating an individual’s constitutional rights;
- Improving the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations;
- Incentivizing states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths through grants; and
- Creating best practices recommendations based on President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force.
- Improve transparency into policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force by:
- Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problem-officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability; and
- Mandating state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
- Improve police training and practices by:
- Ending racial and religious profiling;
- Mandating training on racial bias and the duty to intervene;
- Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;
- Banning chokeholds and carotid holds;
- Changing the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was reasonable to whether the force was necessary;
- Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;
- Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and
- Requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body camera.
- Make lynching a federal crime by:
- Making it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights and criminal justice organizations including:
“The National African American Clergy Network supports the Justice in Policing Bill. It affirms sacred scripture that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be protected by police sworn to value and safeguard all lives. Failure by police to uphold this sacred trust with Black Americans lives, requires systemic changes in policing nationwide.” The National African American Clergy Network (NAACN), Co-Conveners, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr.
“It’s time to close the chapter on a dark era of unchecked police violence in our country that has wreaked havoc for African American families across the country. The Justice in Policing Act is historic and comprehensive legislation that will put our country on a long, overdue path to reform. This Act is responsive to many of the urgent demands being pressed for by communities and reforms called for by protesters across our nation. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law supports the Justice in Policing Act and commends the Congressional Black Caucus for this transformative legislation,” said Kristen Clarke, President & Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“Sometimes difficult circumstances present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about historic change,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The brutal actions of police in George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, along with botched execution of a no-knock warrant that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and the brazen vigilante execution of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia, have pushed the nation to the tipping point.”
Other Senators cosponsoring the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 include U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Pay Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
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