Last week, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 as protests against police brutality and lack of accountability continued. The most recent ones occurred last Tuesday in Rochester, New York, after a grand jury failed to indict the police officers who handcuffed Daniel Prude, placed a hood over his head and pressed him into the pavement until he lost consciousness. He died that night.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 is a bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and residents by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives. Last Congress, the act passed by a bipartisan vote of 236 to 181. Every House Democrat and three Republicans voted in support of the bill. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to hold a vote on the current bill this week.
This legislation would establish federal law to ban chokeholds, end racial and religious profiling, eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement, establish a national standard for the operation of police departments, mandate data collection on police encounters, reprogram existing funds to invest in transformative community-based policing programs, and streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations.
Further, the bill mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras. It also establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired from or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability, and amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
Additionally, the bill reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights. It establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities reimagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
Finally, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.