Yesterday (June 8, 2020,) Congressional Democrats unveiled the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a law enforcement reform measure. This legislative proposal is the response of Democratic leaders to the murder of George Floyd and the protests that took place afterward.

The proposal, according to reporting from VOX News, calls for:

  • Making it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers wrongdoing.
  • “Ban the use of chokeholds.”
  • “Demilitarize police departments.”
  • “Ending qualified immunity for law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits.”
  • “Create a National Registry to track misconduct as a way to prevent repeat offenders from being rehired at other police departments.”
  • “Prohibit certain no-knock warrants at the federal, state, and local levels.”
  • “Require states to report the use of force to the Justice Department.”
  • “Mandate racial bias training at the federal level.”
  • “Require that deadly force only be used as last resort.”
  • “Make lynching a federal crime.”
  • “Require police to use more body and dashboard cameras.”
  • “Limit the transfer of military equipment to local police departments.”

Readers should note that none of these proposals include defunding the police, a propaganda talking point Donald Trump (who apparently believes a 75-year-old white man staged his own falling and cracking his skull in Buffalo to make the police look bad. No Mr. Trump, the video already did that.)

Readers should also realize that the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden does not support defunding the police.

As EJ Montini eloquently expressed in the title of his June 8, 2020 column for AZ Central:

“‘Defund the police’ is an idiotic slogan. Stop using it.”

Defunding the police will not solve the cultural problems that exist among the few bad apples in law enforcement and could potentially create new ones.

These measures outlined in the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 are about ridding the police forces across the country of rogue officers, instituting needed reforms and changing the festering aspects of law enforcement culture

Suffice to say Mr. Trump (the 2016 KKK endorsed candidate) and his fringe allies in law enforcement (including some of those in union leadership) do not support the Democratic measure.

Reaction among Arizona Democrats has been generally positive to the Congressional proposal.

Arizona Democratic Party Chairperson Felecia Rotellini, at the request of Blog for Arizona, issued a statement, that relayed:

“Black Lives Matter and we will not rest until we remove systemic racism from law enforcement and our communities. Arizona Democrats were proud to see the U.S. House introduce the Justice in Policing Act, co-sponsored by Congressmen Gallego and Stanton, and supported by all members of the Arizona Democratic Congressional Delegation. Respecting law enforcement professionals while holding them accountable is the balance we must achieve and this act takes the right steps to realize that vision.”

“This legislation bans chokeholds, including the kind used in the murder of George Floyd, as well as no-knock warrants, used in the incident leading to the killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.”

“The legislation requires local police departments to send data on the use of force to the federal government, reforms to police training such as mandatory racial bias training, and body cameras for federal, state, and local officers.”

“This is a first step towards righting past wrongs and restoring trust between police and the communities they serve, but we certainly have more to do.  We look forward to seeing this legislation move through the House.” 

 

Representative Anne Kirkpatrick posted to Facebook:

“House Democrats are rising to the challenge. This historic legislation will end police brutality by banning chokeholds, ban no-knock warrants, create a national database of officer misconduct, and hold officers accountable by reforming qualified immunity.”

Representative Ruben Gallego also posted on Facebook

“We need bold, comprehensive federal legislation to fundamentally change the relationship between law enforcement and the public whom they have sworn to protect.”

 “The Justice in Policing Act makes long-overdue changes to our criminal justice system by mandating the use of proven de-escalation techniques, increasing transparency, and transforming the culture and mindset of policing in America.

“I’ll work to enact this bill into law in order to hold federal, state, and local law enforcement accountable, increase public safety, and protect Black lives.”

Representative Thomas O’Halleran’s office issued a statement:

“Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) announced his co-sponsorship of the Justice in Policing Act, bicameral legislation to address police reform by improving transparency, setting standards for accountability, and helping rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.”

“As a member of Congress, I have spent much of my time in the House of Representatives focused on legislation to hold elected officials accountable to their constituents. In cosponsoring this bill, I am joining my colleagues in both chambers to hold another group of public servants accountable to tax-paying American families,” said O’Halleran. “As a former law enforcement officer myself, I know how important it is that those who have sworn to protect and serve are held to the highest standards. Every American deserves to feel safe in his or her community.”

“The Justice in Policing Act

  • prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling;  
  • mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement;
  • requires federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras, requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras, and requires marked federal police vehicles to have dashboard cameras;
  • requires that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first;
  • bans the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and encourages states to do the same;
  • and creates a nationwide police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave one agency from moving to another jurisdiction without accountability.”

“The protection and equitable treatment of all Americans is not a partisan issue,” said O’Halleran. “We have reached a turning point as a nation and no elected official of any political party, at any level of government, can ignore the calls for change sweeping our communities. I am committed to continuing to hear from the citizens of Arizona’s First District and to working with the Congressional Black Caucus to see what is needed next.”

“The Justice in Policing Act is expected to receive a markup next week in the House of Representatives.”AriA

“Today, as we lay George Floyd to rest, we honor his life and we remember and repeat the names of the countless others we have lost,” continued O’Halleran. “As a nation, we must reckon with the fact that we have failed to fully and unequivocally recognize that Black lives matter. In advancing this legislation, I know we can work together and take actionable steps to change that.”

 Greg Stanton’s office issued a statement, which read:

 “Rep. Greg Stanton today cosponsored a comprehensive reform bill to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement, and repair trust between law enforcement and communities. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 was introduced this morning by House leadership, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and House Judiciary Committee, and Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.”

 “For far too long, Black Americans have experienced pain, anger, and frustration with a system that has denied them equal justice under the law,” said Stanton. “We have a long way to go to fix long-standing, institutional biases and systemic racism. Every American has a responsibility to meet this historic challenge. And Congress must take this important step—the first of many—to ensure that no American faces greater danger simply because of the color of their skin.”

 “The bill includes measures to reform and improve police training and practices including mandatory racial bias training, body camera requirements for federal, state and local officers, limitations on the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local agencies, and a national use-of-force standard. It would also ban certain practices including “no-knock” warrants in drug cases, and chokeholds and carotid holds.” 

 “The bill would hold officers accountable for reckless misconduct in federal courts, including reforming qualified immunity, as well as improve transparency in policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force from state and local agencies. Finally, the bill would make lynching a federal hate crime for the first time in American history.” 

Congressional District Four Candidate Delina DiSanto, in response to a request from Blog For Arizona, wrote:

“The majority of Americans are united in our common values, ideals, and beliefs. These are rooted in our history and in our souls. But we have allowed and looked the other way when people of color and low-income communities are treated unjustly and do not have the equal opportunity outcomes they should be allowed. For too long we have turned a blind eye to social justice differences and not addressing the issues head-on for people of color.”

“The rule of law should be applied equally. I agree police departments should provide data and tracking information on the use of force. There should be a national database of police misconduct, so police officers can’t go from one police force to another. We must include funding so local police departments can be investigated when complaints are filed. There must be a ban on chokeholds and carotid holds.  There should also be a ban on no-knock warrants because the outcomes are dangerous to both parties. Many homeowners own guns and have the right to protect their homes.”

“This issue has caused extreme emotions, but it is about time we address these horrific tactics that caused death to so many people of color. These policies to address racial bias and police misconduct are way overdue.”

Congressional District Six Candidate Stephanie Rimmer, in response to a request from Blog For Arizona, wrote:

“I wholeheartedly support reforms that attach expectations to the use of federal funds at the state and local level in regard to public safety and many other areas as well. My campaign for Congress was inspired by many failures by our current leaders to institute reforms that are good for all Americans. We must require all government agencies and communities that use federal tax dollars to meet minimum standards of conduct and compliance with federal regulations including reporting, tracking and meeting targeted goals. Congress cannot and must not stop at this. We need reforms to address how we allocate and allow federal tax dollars to be used in housing, education, healthcare, social services, and much more. And no one should have to die for Congress to tackle reforms. I am disappointed that George Floyd had to lose his life in order for these reforms to be considered. I will not stand by any longer waiting for our elected Democratic Congressional members to make equal rights, equal protection, and equal opportunity their top priorities. At no time should special interest issues have become more important than the equality of all Americans.”

Congressional District Eight Candidate Bob Musselwhite, in response to a request from Blog For Arizona,  wrote:

 “I spent 24 years involved in local government in three states, much of that time involved with police forces and in one jurisdiction heavily involved with the reform of police efforts.  This is not a new or a simple problem to solve.  Nor is police excessive force and misjudgment always directed only at only one group.  Bare in mind if police can violate one American’s rights then any American’s rights can be violated. Trying to legislate to do what is morally and ethically right has always been a challenge.  Many laws and rulings are already on the books for example the application of the 14th Amendment to the states.  What is missing is oversight and enforcement coming from many states and backed by a national executive who has a modicum of understanding of what is going on outside the world of public relations.”

 “There are thousands of local police organizations in this country. Each one of them reflects the community that they serve.  Our police forces are locally operated intentionally.  The reason for that is that we wish our police to reflect our values by being close to the community.  In large cities, this task of being close to the community becomes more difficult as departments, because of costs, spread themselves thinner and thinner through mechanized answers that take the foot officer off of the street for example where he or she is likely to be closer to the people.  The problem is also exacerbated by the way we plan cities with few community areas resulting in isolation.  Remaining close to the community is difficult even in a small community because it takes constant attention and effort.”

 “Be also mindful that this country has been at war for 20 years and is always on a war footing, having just completed a war or getting ready to start a new war or military action.  This military mentality is applied to our police many of whom received their first training in the military. The acceptance of surplus military equipment that is not designed for a civil mission has also exacerbated the problem.  I declined such equipment during my time as City Manager saying that the parts to keep the equipment going are are specialized, too hard to find, and expensive.  Most of the leaders of the police department at that time did not want the equipment either because it gave the wrong impression of what they were about.  We wanted our police to think of themselves as civil police, not an occupation force.  A police officer needs to know how to manage a civilian situation through finesse, to de-escalate and not by inflating the situation and then depending on overwhelming military-like force to correct the mess he or she has made.”

 “Police officers that are hired need to understand and love their community.  They need to be well paid and have an available career path.  They need to be screened and checked for unacceptable tendencies and attitudes and when they exhibit a propensity for the use of excessive force or bad judgment they need to be removed from employment.  Local departments need state oversight and federal intervention must be possible and likely if the rights of any individual are violated or excessive force is employed.  Lots of this seems to be missing at the present time because of careless attitudes at the top at the national level.” 

“Reforms need to be made.  Bear in mind the overwhelming number of police officers try and will do the right job with care for individuals and the community.  When one police officer fails, all are judged.  The system must work for the officers of goodwill who love justice and we must get those out that are not of goodwill who love justice. This also should be kept in mind, when people complain they need to be heard.”

Across the country, several cities and states have already started the process of law enforcement reform.

Many of the initiatives mirror those contained in the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

New York State has banned police officers from using chokeholds and repealed a statute that allowed police organizations to hide discipline records.

Other states, cities, and countries have banned the use of chokeholds. These include France, California (Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego,) Washington State, Washington D.C., Broward County, and Miami in Florida, Chicago, Houston, Denver, Minneapolis, and Phoenix.

The city of Minneapolis has secured a veto-proof majority, over the objections of Mayor Jacob Frey, on its city council to break up its police force and make something new.

Eric Garcetti and Bill DeBlasio, the Mayors of Los Angeles and New York have decided to shift funds from the police budget to economic development, social services, and youth programs.

These moves should not be confused with the defunding accusations espoused by Mr. Trump and his black-shirted friends.

The Phoenix City Council, in a seven to two vote approved fully funding the police oversight program.

Please see the letter from Annie DeGraw, Mayor Kate Gallego’s Communications Director, announcing the decision.

PHX City Council Fully Funds Office of Accountability and Transparency.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and her team have announced the creation of a Mayoral Advisory Council on Racial Equity and Justice.

Democrats at the Arizona State Legislature have asked for a special session where a serious of law enforcement reform proposals, similar to those contained in the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, would be considered.

https://blogforarizona.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Joint-Dems-Special-Session-Request-on-Police-Reform-1.pdf

Even Governor Doug Ducey said he is willing to listen and entertain suggestions for reform (although saying and doing are two different things.)

This is a historic time for the community known as the citizenry of Arizona and the United States to come together and create a new properly funded cultural reality where all law enforcement is totally populated by law-abiding citizens dedicated to protecting everyone in their jurisdictions.

To be fair, the great majority of law enforcement officials are dedicated public servants who risk their lives every day to serve all people.

It is also an occasion to allocate additional resources to social justice and economic development programs across the country to give impoverished communities in urban and rural areas a renewed sense of hope and break the cycle of poverty, neglect, and despair.

This is a chance to transform Arizona and the rest of the United States for the better.

The people and the public servants they hire to represent them should meet the calling of history and move to get on its right side by propelling the country closer to the American Ideal everyone strives to be a part of.

The time to act is now.