WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats on Monday introduced a sweeping bill intended to address longstanding complaints about racial injustice in U.S. policing, following two weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stands with members of the Congressional Black Caucus during a news conference to unveil legislation to combat police violence and racial injustice after weeks of protests against racial inequality in the aftermath in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
If enacted as law, provisions of the bill titled the “Justice in Policing Act” would change a wide array of practices. Among them:
** The bill would eliminate the “qualified immunity” defense for both police and correctional officers. The defense, strengthened in recent years by the Supreme Court, shields officers whose actions have been deemed unlawful, including in excessive force cases. [here]
** It would strengthen civil rights protections by making police liable for constitutional violations that are done “knowingly or with reckless disregard” rather than requiring such acts to be done “willfully” for a violation to occur.
** The bill would restrict the use of lethal force to situations in which it is deemed “necessary” and after all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted, rather than allowing officers to determine that deadly force is “reasonable” if they believe they face a threat.
** Congress would require the U.S. Justice Department to establish a national police misconduct registry containing records of complaints against federal, state and local police officers and their results, including exoneration and disciplinary action. That move is intended to make it harder for officers who are fired for misconduct to move into similar roles in other departments.
** The act would prohibit racial profiling in federal law enforcement agencies and require state and local law enforcement departments that receive federal funding to certify that their policies eliminate such practices.
** It would ban the federal use of chokeholds and carotid holds, such as the knee-on-neck restraint that killed Floyd. It would disqualify state and local police departments without such bans from receiving funds under federal grant programs.
** It aims to ban federal “no-knock” warrants in drug cases and disqualify state and local police from jurisdictions without a no-knock ban from receiving federal grants. Police in Louisville, Kentucky, this year killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, while executing such a warrant at her apartment. [nL1N2DE2LO]
** It would require federal uniformed law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and make body cams available to state and local police departments through federal grants.
** The bill would limit the transfer of military-grade weapons and equipment to state and local police departments with an exception given only to counter-terrorism operations, not drug control or border security activities.
** The bill aims to grant subpoena power to the Justice Department to investigate patterns and practices of police misconduct and provides $100 million in grant money over a decade to fund similar investigations by state attorneys general.
Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Aurora Ellis