Democrats to unveil police reform bill after nationwide protests against brutality

Politics

Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are seen during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19,” in Washington, U.S., June 2, 2020.

Tom Williams | Reuters

Top congressional Democrats will unveil a bill to overhaul police practices Monday as Americans mass daily to protest excessive use of force and systemic racism. 

Lawmakers in the House and Senate will release the legislation two weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide furor over sustained brutality against black Americans. His death added to a string of recent killings of black men and women that has led to perhaps the biggest reckoning over racism in the U.S. in decades. 

The Democratic legislation would make sweeping changes designed both to deter police use of force and hold officers more accountable for abuses. The federal bill comes as changes start at the local level: most of the Minneapolis city council committed to disbanding and replacing the city’s police force Sunday, while New York City will consider a range of law enforcement reforms. 

Here’s some of what congressional Democrats’ bill would do, according to summaries obtained by NBC News and the Associated Press: 

  • Reform “qualified immunity” for officers, making it easier for people whose constitutional rights were violated to recover damages 
  • Change the federal standard of criminal police behavior from “willful” to acting “knowingly or with reckless disregard,” to address the difficulty of prosecuting officers 
  • Start a federal registry of police misconduct and require states to report use of force to the U.S. Justice Department 
  • Ban police use of chokeholds and carotid holds, and condition funding for state and local departments on barring the practices 
  • Stop the use of “no-knock” search warrants in drug cases in the U.S., while also making state and local money contingent on stopping use of the warrants
  • Give the Justice Department subpoena power to carry out “pattern and practice” investigations into police department conduct
  • Provide state attorneys general with grants to carry out pattern and practice probes and create a process for independent investigations into uses of force 
  • Require training on racial bias and implicit bias at the federal level, and condition state and local funding on offering training
  • Curb transfers of military-grade weapons to state and local police
  • Classify lynching as a federal hate crime

The Democratic plan did not meet many activists’ demands to slash — or entirely cut — police funding. The legislation offers money for only two components: the requirement to track and report use of force and the investigations by state attorneys general, according to NBC News. 

It is unclear whether the bill as written — or any specific parts of it — could garner support from Republicans. The GOP controls the Senate, while Democrats hold the House. 

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