The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would ban chokeholds and many no-knock warrants, require body and dashboard cameras, and limit transfers of military equipment to police departments. Additionally it would mandate training and create law enforcement accreditation standards. These changes would be given teeth through data collection, including “on investigatory actions and detentions by federal law enforcement agencies; the racial distribution of drug charges; the use of deadly force by and against law enforcement officers; as well as traffic and pedestrian stops and detentions.” The bill would then strengthen investigations both at the Justice Department and in state attorneys general offices.
Perhaps most importantly—and a major sticking point with Republicans—the bill would make it easier to prosecute police for abuses and end qualified immunity, which protects abusive officers even from civil suits.
In remarks following the Chauvin verdict, Vice President Kamala Harris, too, focused on the importance of the legislation, which she joined with Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Karen Bass in introducing in Congress last year, before her election as the first Black and woman vice president. ”This work is long overdue,” Harris said. “America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans—and Black men, in particular—have been treated, throughout the course of our history, as less than human.”
”So now we have to focus on transforming policing in the United States since George Floyd’s murder of a year ago—over 100 people have died at the hands of police,” Bass said. “As a matter of fact, since the trial started on March 29, 63 people have died at the hands of police. In my opinion, this is (a) human rights issue in the United States of America.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has passed the House, but as usual, it faces a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, has put forward his own bill, but it’s significantly weaker—in particular, Scott opposes ending qualified immunity. And while other Republicans will use the existence of Scott’s bill as a cudgel against Democrats, there’s no real reason to believe they would support anything but the most toothless and possibly counterproductive measures.