Democrats Introduce Sweeping Police Reform Bill Amid Nationwide Protests

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bill a “first step” at combating police brutality and racial injustices in the country.

Getty Images/Nancy Pelosi joins fellow Democrats from the House and Senate to announce the new legislation
Getty Images/Nancy Pelosi joins fellow Democrats from the House and Senate to announce the new legislation

Democratic lawmakers unveiled legislation on Monday to reform national law enforcement policies and create more accountability for police. The bill was introduced amid nationwide demonstrations protesting police brutality and demanding justice for George Floyd.

The bill, known as The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, was principally drafted by Black Caucus Chair, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and House Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). It also has at least 200 co-sponsors in the House and Senate.

Some of the bill’s proposed measures include a federal ban on chokeholds, mandating the use of dashboard and body cameras for federal offices, and establishing a National Police Misconduct Registry. The registry would track police misconduct and is designed to prevent officers who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without accountability.

It would also reform “qualified immunity” so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights, make lynching a federal crime, and offer grants for community-based organizations to create task forces and explore other ways to enforce public safety.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who introduced the bill on Monday along with Bass, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other House and Senate Democrats, called the bill a “first step” at countering the police brutality and racial injustices embedded in the country.

“Police brutality is a heartbreaking reflection of an entrenched system of racial injustice in America,” Pelosi said. “True justice can only be achieved with full, comprehensive action. That is what we are doing today. This is a first step. There is more to come.”

Before introducing the bill, Pelosi and the other Democratic lawmakers knelt on the floor for eight minutes and 46 seconds as a tribute to Floyd who, on May 25, died after then-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck during a violent arrest.

Pelosi said that, in the coming weeks, the House will hold hearings and mark up the legislation in coming weeks and that she hopes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will “swiftly take it up” (though McConnell has already opposed state-level commitments at police reform). Schumer also said on Monday that Senate Democrats will "fight like hell" in order to pass the bill, and called on McConnell to bring the bill to the Senate floor by the end of the month.

Though some have praised the bill for attempting to reform the county’s law enforcement, others have said the bill falls short of their demands to “defund police” — an idea that some cities including Minneapolis have begun to pursue.

In a Monday statement, Kanya Bennett who serves as Senior Council for ACLU Washington’s Legislative Office said that, while the bill offered “significant steps” to protect people and ensure accountability, it didn’t cover divestment from law enforcement agencies.

“There can be no more Band-Aid or temporary fixes when it comes to policing, which is why we are calling for divestment from law enforcement agencies and reinvestment into the Black and Brown communities that have been harmed by over policing and mass incarceration,” Bennett said.

An earlier version of this article misspelled Booker's name. It has since been updated. The article also reflects that body cameras will be mandated for federal officers.