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On Monday, congressional Democrats unveiled a sweeping police reform bill following weeks of protests against police brutality and racism.
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would eliminate a law enforcement officer’s “qualified immunity" protection, a legal shield that makes police accountability difficult in cases of civil and criminal misconduct. The legislation also mandates the use of body cameras on police officers nationwide, as well as bans weapon transfer from military to police.
The Democratic bill would also curb violent police practices, imposing a federal ban on police chokeholds such as the kind used by former police officer Derek Chauvin when he suffocated George Floyd to death last month. It would also ban no-knock warrants in drug cases which follows the recent death of Breonna Taylor, a black American woman was fatally shot by a white Louisville police officer in a no-knock warrant case. The proposal would also create a national registry to track cases of police misconduct.
However, while some activists have been calling for police defunding, the proposed legislation does not affect police budgets.
The bill, which has more than 200 co-sponsors in the House and the Senate, was led and crafted by the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the House Judiciary Committee, California Senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.
Emphasizing the necessity of the bill, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker told NPR’s All Things Considered, “These are common sense changes that, frankly, will create a far greater level of accountability for police officers who violate the law, violate our rights and who violate our community standards.”
Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said that the proposal marks a “bold and transformative vision of policing in America.”
“Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets in Minneapolis: the slow murder of an individual by a uniformed police officer,” she said during a news conference.
After the legislation was rolled out, the Democrats took a knee and held a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the amount of time Chauvin pinned down his knee on Floyd’s neck.
In response to the Democrats’ bill, Senator Mitt Romney announced plans to introduce a bipartisan police reform bill stating that, “The fact that [the Democrats’ bill] has no Republican sponsors, the fact that there was no effort to contact any of us to have us weigh in on the legislation, suggests it’s designed to be a message piece, as opposed to a real piece of legislation.”
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