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Warner, Kaine join Senate colleagues in introducing sweeping police reform bill

(© W. Scott McGill –

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have joined Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and 31 Senate colleagues in introducing sweeping police reform legislation.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is the first comprehensive legislative approach to ending police brutality and changing the culture of law enforcement departments by holding police accountable in court for misconduct, increasing transparency through better data collection, and improving police practices and training. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and 165 cosponsors.

“Our national conversation about systemic racism is long overdue. Over and over, in communities across the country, we see Black men, women, and even children treated with violence and suspicion that white Americans never experience. There is not one single policy to address this crisis. It will take sustained effort at every level of government and society. However, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 can begin to create the kind of systematic change we need,” said Sen. Warner. “Policing is a local issue, and much of the change we need to see will come at the state and local level. But there are areas where we can take action at the federal level. This bill may not be perfect, and as the legislative process proceeds we should be open to further improvements. We should also continue to engage the many members of law enforcement who are working tirelessly to bring change to their own neighborhoods and communities. But today’s introduction is a vital first step to ensuring that the principle of equal justice under the law is realized for all Americans, and I am proud to stand with Sens. Booker and Harris to support this effort.”

“Far too many Americans, particularly Black Americans, have been victims of police brutality, and Congress can no longer be bystanders,” Sen. Kaine said. “This legislation will improve police training, transparency, and practices to help address systemic racism. We must enact meaningful change to make clear that police misconduct has no place in America.”

“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,” Sen. 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. And on the front-end, the bill improves police practices and training to prevent these injustices from happening in the first place.”

“America’s sidewalks are stained with Black blood,” Sen. Harris said. “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 woman’s killing at the hands of the very police who are sworn to protect and serve them? As a career prosecutor and former Attorney General of California, I know that real public safety requires community trust and police accountability. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this historic legislation that will get our country on a path forward.”

Specifically, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would:

  • Hold police accountable in our courts by:
    • Amending the mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct, from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;
    • Reforming qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that as currently interpreted shields law enforcement officers from being held legally liable for violating an individual’s constitutional rights.
    • Improving the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations;
    • Incentivizing states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths through grants; and
    • Creating best practices recommendations based on President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force
  • Improve transparency into policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force by:
    • Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problem-officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability; and
    • Mandating state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, and age
  • Improve police training and practices by:
    • Ending racial and religious profiling;
    • Mandating training on racial bias and the duty to intervene;
    • Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;
    • Banning chokeholds and carotid holds;
    • Changing the use of force standard for federal officers from reasonableness to only when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury;
    • Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;
    • Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and
    • Requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body camera
  • Make lynching a federal crime by:
    • Making it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights organizations including: Demand Progress, Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Action Network, National African American Clergy Network, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), Black Millennial Convention, and the National Urban League.

“The National African American Clergy Network supports the Justice in Policing Bill.  It affirms sacred scripture that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be protected by police sworn to value and safeguard all lives. Failure by police to uphold this sacred trust with Black Americans lives, requires systemic changes in policing nationwide,” said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., co-conveners, The National African American Clergy Network.

“It’s time to close the chapter on a dark era of unchecked police violence in our country that has wreaked havoc on African American families across the country. The Justice in Policing Act is historic and long overdue legislation that will put our country on a path to reform.  This Act is responsive to many of the urgent demands being pressed for by our communities and by the people protesting for racial justice and equity across our nation. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law commends the Congressional Black Caucus for their leadership on policing reform and this critical legislation, including Chair Karen Bass, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kamala Harris,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“Sometimes difficult circumstances present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about historic change,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO, the National Urban League. “The brutal actions of police in George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, along with botched execution of a no-knock warrant that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and the brazen vigilante execution of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia, have pushed the nation to the tipping point.”

“For the past four-plus centuries, Black people have continuously been made to endure unfair, unjust, and inhumane treatment in this country. We have been made to believe in that if we worked hard, never complained, and accepted what the world offered that would be enough. What the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others have taught us is that obedience will never be enough; liberty and justice for all applies to everyone but us; and by us, we mean Black Americans, African Americans, Afro-Americans, or plainly put, Black people,” said Waikinya J.S.Clanton, MBA Black Millennial Convention.

augusta free press
augusta free press