·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Civil Rights

Congressional Democrats Draw Up Police Abuse & Reform Bill

— June 10, 2020

The proposal includes a ban on chokeholds as well as a national registry for police misconduct.

Congressional Democrats have offered sweeping legislation aimed at curbing police abuse across the country.

According to CNN, the legislation was spearheaded by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, working in tandem with Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. The proposal received backing from liberal senators, including Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“We have confused having safe communities with hiring more cops,” Sen. Harris said in a statement. “When in fact the real way to achieve safe and healthy communities is to invest in these communities.”

The bill is intended to head off mass protests and riots, which have sprung up across the United States following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd, an African-American man, was choked to death by a Minneapolis police officer after a convenience store reported Floyd for paying for a purchase with a potentially counterfeit $20 bill. The incident—caught entirely on video—shows a compliant Floyd struggling to breathe as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin drives his knee into the man’s neck.

Chauvin, along with other arresting officers, has since been removed from the force and indicted on second-degree murder charges.

Karen Bass (D-CA), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, said protests in response to Floyd’s death may usher in a new era.

“The world is witnessing the birth of a new movement in our country,” Rep. Bass said on Monday.

Bass was backed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who said Congress “cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural judge.” But, as CNN notes, any Democratic proposal will need bipartisan backing to survive the Republican-dominated Senate.

The proposed legislations so far includes a ban on the use of chokeholds by police, as well as the creation of a National Police Misconduct Registry, meant “to prevent problem officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability.”

The bill also provides incentives for states and cities to order racial bias training, as well as practical sessions encouraging officers to intervene whenever they see colleagues using excessive force.

Furthermore, the legislation addresses concerns about police militarization the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.

However, Democrats’ ambitions have been extensively criticized by Republicans, including President Donald Trump. On Monday, Trump took to Twitter to counter Democratic endeavors to defund local police departments, which could be replaced by community-oriented law enforcement entities.

“LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE,” Trump wrote. “The Radical Left Democrats have gone Crazy!”

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans are attempting to draft their own legislation to combat systemic inequity. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said his colleagues are considering a proposal that would facilitate de-escalation training, while similarly advocating safe restraints.

But Scott emphasized that neither he nor other congressional Republicans are particularly keen on Democrats’ proposal.

“I basically shy away from telling local law enforcement, ‘You shouldn’t do that or you can’t do this,’” Scott told NPR. “I think [Democrats’] bill has a tendency to be seen as perhaps a nationalization of some of the underlying issues or techniques.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he suspects that bipartisan bickering will prevent any meaningful legislation from passing.

“I think there’s going to be a Republican proposal and a Democrat proposal. The only thing that bothers me about that, is what usually happens where’s a Republican proposal and a Democratic proposal,” Paul said. “An impasse and nothing.”


Democrats offer sweeping police reform bill

Led By Tim Scott, Senate Republicans Begin Drafting Their Own Police Reform Plan

U.S. Democrats pledge transformative change with police reform bill

Join the conversation!