Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, announced on June 8 the introduction of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
“Over the past weeks, the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have shocked the conscience of this nation,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “It also has challenged this nation and this Congress to address the historical practices of racism in the use of deadly force. We’ve watched Americans of every age, race, creed and station take to the streets to demand bold systemic change to policing in this country. Specifically, they are demanding increased accountability, transparency, and training for officers sworn to protect our communities.
“That’s why today, I’m proud to join with my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in introducing the Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” she continued. “The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 delivers on those demands from the American people by improving accountability, increasing transparency and reforming police training. What the peaceful protests and demonstrations across this country have shown us is that America cannot wait on reform any longer. The time to act is now. This bill represents the structural and meaningful reforms that the American people are demanding.”
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 will hold police accountable in U.S. 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; and reforming qualified immunity so that individuals are not entirely barred from recovering damages when police violate their 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; incentivize states to create independent investigative structures for police-involved deaths through grants; and create best practices recommendations based on the Obama 21st Century Policing Task Force.
The act would 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, mandate state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion or age.
It would also 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 standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was reasonable to whether the force was necessary; 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 cameras.
The legislation would also make lynching a federal crime by making it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.