House and Senate Democrats on Monday are expected to unveil a sweeping package of police reforms in response to the death of George Floyd and other troubling encounters between African Americans and the police.
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would limit qualified immunity protections, create a national police misconduct registry, ban chokeholds, restrict the transfer of military-grade equipment to police departments and make lynching a federal crime, among other provisions, according to a section-by-section summary of the proposal sent to Democratic offices Friday night and obtained by ABC News. Democrats are still finalizing the proposal ahead of its formal release next week.
“While there is no single policy prescription that will erase the decades of systemic racism and excessive policing – it’s time we create structural change with meaningful reforms,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair. Karen Bass, D-Calif., House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the main sponsors of the legislation, said in a “Dear Colleague” letter Friday evening.
The proposal circulated Friday evening would impose new conditions on funding for law enforcement. Federal funds would be tied to banning the use of chokeholds and carotid holds. And they would also be conditioned on protocols to discourage racial profiling and mandatory racial and implicit bias training programs.
It would also create a federal registry of law enforcement officers at all levels to gather misconduct complaints, discipline and termination records, to discourage the hiring of police officers with “problematic” records in other jurisdictions, according to the summary.
According to the highlights shared with Democrats on Friday night, the package would require states to report use-of-force incidents against civilians or law enforcement officers to the Justice Department and provide funding to smaller police departments to encourage the collection and reporting of policing data.
The package also includes provisions designed to make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct, changing the criminal intent standard from “willfulness” violation of a person’s constitutional rights to “recklessness” in the relevant federal law.
It would make it easier for individuals to seek damages from police officers by limiting the qualified immunity doctrine that has protected law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits.
The package, which is expected to face resistance from elements of the law enforcement community, could be approved by the House later this month. But it’s not clear how many Republicans will support the effort, and the GOP-led Senate is expected to take up more limited proposals.
Some Republicans have called for improving police training, increasing the reporting of officer-related shooting data, and making it easier to fire police officers charged repeatedly charged with misconduct.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on police brutality since Floyd’s death on Wednesday, featuring testimony from his brother.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., plans to hold a hearing on policing reforms in the coming weeks.