Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives proposed structural changes to policing laws Monday in response to national protests following the death of George Floyd. The bill, assembled by the Congressional Black Caucus, would make it easier to prosecute officers, collect data, and establish new training programs.
What We Know:
- According to the Wall Street Journal, the new legislation incorporates multiple bills endorsed by lawmakers as both Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed the need for congressional action after receiving public pressure.
- “Today this moment of national anguish is being transformed into a movement of national action,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday. “We cannot settle for anything less than transformative, structural change.”
- Currently, prosecutors must establish that an officer willfully violated a person’s constitutional rights. The new House bill would require them to establish that officers violated those rights recklessly.
- The bill would also allow citizens to collect damages if their constitutional rights have been violated by police, this would hinder the “qualified immunity” protection established by the Supreme Court that shields police and other government officials from legal liability for actions they take on the job.
- The legislation also proposes setting up a public national registry of police misconduct, maintained by the Justice Department, where records can be kept on complaints against an officer, disciplinary actions, and firing records.
- Certain police tactics would also be outlawed under the Democrat’s bill, including the use of chokeholds by officers and “no-knock” warrants in drug cases, where officers can raid a residence without permission (a protocol that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black emergency room technician, in her home).
- The bill will also seek to limit a Trump-era program that allows police agencies to receive military equipment for no charge beyond shipping and incentivize states to implement better police-training programs.
The bill’s potential in the Republican-led Senate is unclear, but members of the party have expressed their interest in discussing police practice legislation and improving police relations with black communities.