On Monday, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (CA-37), Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, designed as a comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and our communities.
“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new movement in our country with thousands coming together in every state marching to demand a change that ends police brutality, holds police officers accountable, and calls for transparency,” Bass said. “For over 100 years, Black communities in America have sadly been marching against police abuse and calling 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,” Bass said. “Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets in Minnesota with George Floyd.”
Harris stressed the importance of holding police accountable and ensuring consequences for misconduct, as well as making investments in Black communities.
“We’re here because Black Americans want to stop being killed,” Harris said. “Just last week, we couldn’t even pass an anti-lynching bill in the United States Senate. So, when we look at where we are now with this piece of legislation, we have to understand. Yes, as a country, we’ve seen great progress. But just last week in the year of our Lord 2020, we could not get an anti-lynching bill passed in the United States Senate.
“Let’s be clear, reforming policing is in the best interest of all Americans. It is literally in the best interest of all Americans, because this is a basic matter of fairness and as so many have said, justice.
“Part of what has been upside down in policing policy in America is that we have confused having safe communities with hiring more cops on the street, as though that is the way to achieve safe communities, when in fact, the real way to achieve safe and healthy communities is to invest in those communities: in affordable housing, in the ability for home ownership, jobs, funding our public schools, giving people access to capital so they can go grow those small businesses that are part of the leadership and the health of these communities.
“Ours is a bill that addresses a very specific matter under a larger umbrella of all that must be addressed,” Harris said. “When we talk about the need for safety and safe and healthy communities in America, this specifically is a bill about accountability and consequence for bad behaviors by those who have been invested by society, and the people, with the ability to wear a badge and carry a gun.”
Booker, who dropped out of the democractic presidential race in January, is confident that the new bill will fix federal laws.
“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,” 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,” Booker said. “And on the front-end, the bill improves police practices and training to prevent these injustices from happening in the first place.”
Nadler has taken an active role in working against discriminatory racial profiling by law enforcement in the past.
“We have heard the terrifying words ‘I can’t breathe’ from George Floyd, Eric Garner, and the millions of Americans in the streets calling out for change,” Nadler said. “For every incident of excessive force that makes headlines, the ugly truth is that there are countless others that we never hear about.
“This is a systemic problem that requires a comprehensive solution. I am proud to work in lockstep with the Congressional Black Caucus to craft the Justice in Policing Act. This bold, transformative legislation will finally ban chokeholds at the federal level and incentivize states to do the same, it will help end racial profiling, get weapons of war off our streets, hold police accountable, increase transparency and require and encourage greater use of body cameras.
“It does all of this while ensuring that our law enforcement agencies adhere to the very highest standards in training, hiring and de-escalation strategies to address systemic racism and bias to change the culture of law enforcement in America and ultimately save lives,” Nadler said. “I hope to take up this legislation in the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.”