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Police Reform Ideas

U.S. House of Representatives

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Philando Castile (1984 - 2016)

Summary: Congress is currently at an impasse in regards to passing federal police reform legislation. Perhaps the following ideas will eventually lead to negotiations and the passing of compromise legislation.

United States House of Representatives

The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on June 25, 2020. The bill now goes to the Senate where passage is not expected, though this bill could form the basis for negotiations. A news summary of the bill noted the following proposed changes:

  • 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

U.S. Senate

United States Senate

Senator Tim Scott introduced the Justice Act on June 17, 2020. The bill died when it failed to get the needed 60 votes on a procedural motion. Critics of the bill believed it was too weak to serve as a starting point for negotiations. Some of the key provisions were:

  • Law enforcement agencies to ban the use of chokeholds by tying funding to whether departments have prohibited the practice "except when deadly force is authorized" 
  • Ramp up data collection efforts to track when an officer's use of force results in death or serious harm
  • Provide federal money for additional training on alternatives to the use of force
  • Include language recognizing the history of lynching in the United States
  • Strengthen penalties for falsifying police reports
  • Require law enforcement agencies to send the attorney general reports on no-knock warrants
  • Create a commission to study issues that affect Black men and boys

Executive Branch

2021

Department of Justice Announces Department-Wide Policy on Chokeholds and "No-Knock" Entries (9/14/2021)
The Department of Justice today announced written department-wide policies explicitly prohibiting the use of “chokeholds” and “carotid restraints” unless deadly force is authorized, and limiting the circumstances in which the department’s federal law enforcement components are authorized to use unannounced entries.

 

2020

President Trump's Executive Order

President Trump signed an executive order on June 16, 2020 to address some elements of police reform. Generally, executive orders are narrower in scope and less powerful that legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The key provisions are:

  • The attorney general has the authority to allocate money to state and local law enforcement agencies that are seeking credentials from a certified independent body that assesses their policies and practices. The reviews would examine agency training practices, including use-of-force and de-escalation techniques, along with performance management and community engagement efforts.
  • Credentialing bodies must confirm that an agency's use-of-force policies prohibit the use of chokeholds, except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law
  • The attorney general must create a database to share between law enforcement agencies that documents "instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters, accounting for applicable privacy and due process rights
  • The database will also track officer firings, decertifications, criminal convictions for on-duty conduct and civil judgments against officers for "improper use of force"
  • The attorney general and the Health and Human Services secretary will find ways to train officers regarding "encounters with individuals suffering from impaired mental health, homelessness, and addiction" and advise agencies on developing "co-responder programs" in which non-police professionals show up to certain situations alongside cops
  • ​Within 90 days, the secretary of Health and Human Services will send a summary report to the president on community-support models addressing mental health, homelessness, and addiction
  • Administration officials must pitch proposals to Congress that includes "recommendations to enhance current grant programs to improve law enforcement practices and build "community engagement"