What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?

What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?
Source: Kevin Mohatt, Reuters
Republican senators have their own police reform bill that is said to resemble the George Floyd Act, minus the qualified immunity parts.

  • More than a year after he died while being forcibly detained by a white police officer, the life and death of George Floyd continues to have an impact.
  • This can be seen in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, a bill that passed through the United States House of Representatives in March and is still waiting to be voted on in the Senate.
  • The bill, sponsored by Democratic Representative Karen Bass and co-sponsored by nearly 200 other Democrats, is an attempt to bring more accountability to law enforcement.
  • In April, Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who was filmed with his knee on Floyd’s neck, was found guilty of murder.
  • That verdict, a surprise to many, was celebrated by those who say it is often far too hard to hold law enforcement officers responsible when they screw up or commit outright crimes, as in the Chauvin case. But if this bill is signed into law, a guilty verdict for a crime like Chauvin’s might not be such a rare thing.

What’s in the George Floyd Act?

  • The version of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that passed the House in March includes three main components.
  • The first is that the bill would lower the standard for criminal intent so that it no longer has to be proved that an officer’s harmful actions were done “willfully.” Instead, if it could be proved that the action was done recklessly, or with knowledge that harm was possible, it could be prosecuted.
  • The second change would effectively end “qualified immunity,” a legal concept that protects law enforcement officers from lawsuits, except in very limited situations.
  • The third major change is that the Department of Justice would be given more authority to investigate patterns of misconduct in police departments.
  • The bill also addresses racial profiling, restricts the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants (as was used in the killing of Breonna Taylor in March 2020) and would establish the National Police Misconduct Registry for compiling complaints against police officers.

Will the George Floyd Act be passed?

  • As with basically everything these days, the answer is, “Only if the Senate Democrats all vote in unison and sidestep the filibuster.”
  • When the bill passed through the House, it did so almost entirely along partisan lines: 219 Democrats voted for it and 210 Republicans voted against it. Only one Republican – Representative Lance Gooden of Texas – voted for it, while two Democrats voted against it.
  • But it’s possible that a revised version of the bill could be passed by the Senate. That’s because the biggest hang-up for Republicans seems to be the changes to qualified immunity.
  • Republican senators have their own police reform bill that is said to resemble the George Floyd Act, minus the qualified immunity parts.
  • The opposition to ending qualified immunity is based on the idea that doing so would open up law enforcement officers to numerous lawsuits and discourage people from joining the police.

Does President Biden support the George Floyd Act?

  • He does, which means that if it were to pass through Congress, he would surely sign it into law.
  • In fact, Biden set a deadline for passing the bill: May 25, 2021.
  • That date is significant because it was exactly a year since the death of Floyd.
  • But since that date has now come and gone, negotiations between Democrats and Republicans have continued in the hope of actually achieving some level of police reform.

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