Demonstrators take to the streets to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis while in police custody. (Roy Lewis/Trice Edney News Wire)
Demonstrators take to the streets to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis while in police custody. (Roy Lewis/Trice Edney News Wire)

The Congressional Black Caucus has introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, legislation designed to make the nation’s police more accountable to the nation’s citizens, especially its Black citizens, in the wake of the brutal death of George Floyd.

The May 25 death of Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department has sparked worldwide protests about police brutality and has led to a demand in the U.S. for greater accountability by the police.

Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, called out the names of other unarmed black men and women killed by police.

Bass (D-California) said the names of several victims before asking other members of the CBC to shout out the names of other black men and black women killed by police.

Audience members screamed the names of Freddie Gray, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Dontre Hamilton, Breonna Taylor, Rekia Boyd, Corey Jones, Terrence Crutcher and Botham Jean.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California), who helped write the legislation, said, “America’s sidewalks are stained with black blood. 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 a woman’s killing at the hands of police who are sworn to protect and serve them?”

The CBC introduced the legislation Monday, the same day it was reported that U.S. police kill more people than in any other developed country.

A review of Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) by CNN found a total of 1,348 potential arrest-related deaths in the ten months from June 2015 through March 2016 — an average of 135 deaths per month, or just over 4 per day. By comparison, only 13 people died in police custody in the U.K. Black men and boys wear targets on their backs as far as the police are concerned. Police officers are more likely to use force on black Americans — and, according to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Health, black men are nearly three times more likely than white men to be killed by police intervention.

Before the news conference began, CBC members and others, all wearing colorful Kente cloth scarves, knelt in silence on one knee for eight minutes and 24 seconds in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol Visitor Center. It was a gesture designed to illustrate how long former police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck, killing him.

“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new movement in our country with thousands coming together in every state marching to demand change that ends police brutality, holds officers accountable and calls for transparency,”  Bass said during a Washington, D.C. news conference. “For over 100 years, Black communities in America have sadly been marching against police abuse and calling the for the police to protect and serve them as they do others. Today, we unveil the Justice in Policing Act, which will establish a bold transformative vision of policing in America. Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets in Minnesota with George Floyd.”

The bill, if passed and signed into law, would:

  1. Ban chokeholds, carotid holds, and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  2. Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic cops who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  3. Amend a federal criminal statute from a “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  4. Require state and local law enforcement agencies to report us of force data by race, gender, disability, religion and age.
  5. Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal officers and require state and local enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  6. Prohibit federal, state and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandate training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  7. Reform qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
  8. Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  9. Create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and require the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing.
  10. Improve the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and create a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  11. Establish a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

Thirty-five members of the U.S. Senate and 166 members of the House of Representatives are sponsoring the bill.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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