GOP Senators Introduce New Police Reform Bill

June 22, 2020

Senate Republicans released a policing bill on Wednesday that centers on creating more transparency in law enforcement and using federal aid as leverage for change. Among other measures, the bill would increase federal reporting requirements for use-of-force and no-knock warrants and withhold funding to departments without bans on chokeholds.

The Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, introduced by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), aligns closely with an executive order issued by President Trump last week and counters a sweeping reform bill recently offered by Congressional Democrats.

A majority of Americans across the country are calling on state and federal lawmakers to address police misconduct in the wake of the death of George Floyd and other encounters Black people have had with law enforcement.

“Now is the time for reform,” Sen. Scott said. “The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath made clear from sea to shining sea that action must be taken to rebuild lost trust between communities of color and law enforcement.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to bring up Sen. Scott’s bill next week. House and Senate Democrats also plan to vote on their bill next week.

Here’s a quick breakdown of key elements included in the proposal:

Law Enforcement Reform
  • The JUSTICE Act will strengthen law enforcement training methods and tactics, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, and end the practice of using chokeholds.
  • Additionally, the bill will reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure that the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve.
  • The JUSTICE Act also ensures that when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary records. Too often, after a tragic police-involved incident, we have learned that the officer had a disciplinary record in another jurisdiction of which their current employer was unaware.
Accountability
  • The JUSTICE Act will put more body cameras on the streets and ensure that departments are not only using the cameras, but also storing their data properly.
  • The bill also requires a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers.
Transparency
  • Currently, only approximately 40 percent of police officers from jurisdictions nationwide report to the FBI after an incident where an officer has discharged their weapon or used force. The bill will require full reporting in these two areas.
  • There is also very little data as to when, where, and why no-knock warrants are used. The JUSTICE Act will require reporting in this area as well.
Additional Steps
  • The JUSTICE Act will make lynching a federal crime.
  • The bill also creates two commissions to study and offer solutions to a broader range of challenges facing Black men and boys, as well as the criminal justice system as a whole.

Photo by Michael Vadon on Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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