Democrats unveil police reforms after George Floyd’s death

Paying respects: Democratic lawmakers take a knee in a moment of silence for George Floyd on Capitol Hill.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Just two weeks after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white police officer, Democrats in Washington unveiled a Bill that sought to lower immunity standards for police officers, ban racial profiling in federal law enforcement agency and restrict the use of lethal force.

The Bill, called the Justice in Policing Act, also bans chokeholds and carotid holds; creates a national police misconduct registry; does away with “qualified immunity” for police and correctional officers; requires federal law enforcement officers to wear body cameras; enhances the ability of the Justice Department to investigate patterns of police misconduct.

Sponsored by chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Karen Bass (Democrat, California), the Bill has more than 200 co-sponsors and is likely to pass the Democrat-controlled House. Its passage by the GOP-controlled Senate, however, is far from certain.

“A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession that requires highly trained officers who are accountable to the public,” Ms. Bass said at a press conference on Monday.

The legislation was unveiled just after weekend, and a majority of the city council members of Minneapolis (where Floyd was killed) said they would defund the city’s police department, a move not supported by the Democrat Mayor, Jacob Frey.

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While advocating change to how policing is done, moderate Democrats in Washington stayed clear of the call to defund police departments, a position being adopted by some local governments and with support from the more progressive wing of the party.

“That is a local decision, a local level,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, according to the Washington Post. “But to do so that doesn’t say we’re going to pile more money on to further militarise the police,” Ms. Pelosi said.

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Presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidential race, Joe Biden, also said he was not in favour of defunding police departments.

“No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Mr. Biden told a CBS journalist on Monday. “I support conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”

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Republicans, including U.S. President Donald Trump, have characterised the call by some Democrats to defund police as it as outlandish and radical. .

“We won’t be defunding our police. We won’t be dismantling our police,” Mr. Trump had said on Monday, when he held a roundtable with representatives of law enforcement. “LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE. The Radical Left Democrats have gone Crazy!” he had tweeted on Monday.

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“We’re already seeing outlandish calls, defund the police. Abolish the police,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday. “Call me old-fashioned. I think you may want a police officer to arrest a criminal before you try to work through his feelings.” He compared the distinction between peaceful protesters and rioters and looters to the distinction between the “vast majority” of police officers and the “worst examples of heinous behaviour.”

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On the Democratic side, progressive lawmaker Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez had asked her colleagues not to dismiss calls for defunding police departments, as per a Politico report. “‘Defund’ means that Black & Brown communities are asking for the same budget priorities that White communities have already created for themselves: schooling, police, etc.,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Tuesday.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 7:28:09 AM |

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