Congressional Democrats on Monday announced legislation including sweeping reforms to police departments across the country.
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would ban chokeholds, such as the one used on George Floyd, prohibit no-knock warrants in certain cases, such as the one officers used to gain entry to Breonna Taylor's home before fatally shooting her, and create a national police misconduct database.
Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, told NPR that the legislation is aimed at changing police culture.
Bass, Rep. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) are sponsoring the bill.
The bill is "raising the standards, having national certification and raising the level of policing in the United States so that it is like many other professions," Bass told NPR. "The profession that has the power to kill should be a profession that has national standards, is transparent and is accountable to the public."
According to the summary, the bill would:
- Ban chokeholds
- Prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases; apply pressure to states and municipalities to follow suit
- Create a national police misconduct database with complaints and discipline records
- Adapt "qualified immunity," the legal doctrine that bars officers from lawsuits, so that plaintiffs can sue for alleged civil rights violations.
- Require victims of excessive force or other violations to show that officers "recklessly" deprived them of their rights; rather than showing the actions were "willful" under current law
- Expand the Justice Department's ability to investigate and prosecute police misconduct
- Give state attorneys general and the Justice Department's civil rights division the power to subpoena for department-wide evidence in "pattern and practice" investigations
Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey last week took a series of interim steps to address police brutality in the city's police force, following an injunction filed by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
This included banning chokeholds and neck restraints, and requiring officers to intervene when they see unauthorized use of force by other officers.