House Democrats on Monday introduced sweeping police reforms at the federal level, including measures that make it easier to prosecute officers in criminal and civil court.
The bill was introduced at a news conference Monday led by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer and other senior Democratic lawmakers.
Two dozen lawmakers knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Emancipation Hall at the U.S. Capitol before the unveiling to remember George Floyd.
The legislation follows two weeks of mass demonstrations nationwide over Floyd’d death on Memorial Day. Most have been peaceful, but a number of rallies have turned violent and led to vandalism and looting.
Called the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, the plan proposes wide-ranging reforms like reducing the federal standard for prosecuting police for misconduct, revising the “qualified immunity” law that shields officers from civil suits, creating a national misconduct database, limiting the transfer of military-grade weapons and barring “no-knock” warrants in drug cases.
“The Justice and Policing Act established a bold, transformative vision of policing in America,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets of Minneapolis — the slow murder of an individual by a uniformed police officer.”
“Today, with the Justice and Policing Act, Congress is standing with those fighting for justice and taking action,” added Pelosi.
“Over the past week, hundreds of thousands of Americans have engaged in peaceful protests against police violence and systemic racism,” Schumer said. “This large, diverse group, so many of them young, gives us hope that Americans are prepared to march and fight to make this a more perfect union once and for all.”
Senate Democrats, Schumer vowed, will “fight like hell” to pass the package and called on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to take it up before the end of June.
The proposal does not seek to defund police departments, which has been called for by some activists. City councilors in Minneapolis said Sunday they plan to defund and disband its police department in favor of a new community-type policing system. The idea, however, is far from having unanimous support and is expected to set off a lengthy and complex fight. Mayor Jacob Frey has said he opposes fully abolishing the city’s police force.
The House judiciary committee will hold its first hearing for the proposal Wednesday.
Republican lawmakers say they have been shut out of the planning process, but House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said last week he’s confident both parties “can find common ground” on the issue.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has downplayed the need for police reforms.
“I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.
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