NETWORK Urges House YES Vote on Justice in Policing Act

Joan Neal and Mara Rutten
March 3, 2021

Due to threats of further violence at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, March 4, House Democratic Leadership accelerated the debate and vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was originally scheduled for Thursday. Ahead of the vote, NETWORK contacted all member of the House of Representatives, urging them to support this legislation that would ban chokeholds and support implicit bias training and community policing.

We know the time is long overdue for enacting policing reforms that hold law enforcement accountable and equally responsible for protecting and serving everyone in society. Failure for Representatives to act would be an abdication of their moral and civic duty and a blatant disregard for the humanity of Black lives.

NETWORK urged members to include and adhere to the following principles in any legislation that addresses police brutality and accountability:

  1. Require a federal standard that use of force be reserved for only when necessary as a last resort after exhausting reasonable options, and incentivize states to implement this standard; require the use of de-escalation techniques, and the duty to intervene; ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against individuals who only verbally confront officers, or against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves; and require all officers to accurately report all uses of force;
  2. Prohibit all maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, including neck holds, chokeholds, and similar excessive force, deeming the use of such force a federal civil rights violation;
  3. Prohibit racial profiling, and require robust data collection on police-community encounters and law enforcement activities. Data should capture all demographic categories and be disaggregated;
  4. Eliminate federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement;
  5. Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants, especially for drug searches;
  6. Change the 18 U.S.C. Sec. 242 mens rea requirement from willfulness to recklessness, permitting prosecutors to successfully hold law enforcement accountable for the deprivation of civil rights and civil liberties;
  7. Develop a national public database that would cover all police agencies in the United States and its territories, similar to the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training’s National Decertification Index, which would compile the names of officers who have had their licenses revoked due to misconduct, including but not limited to domestic violence, sexual violence, assault and harassment, criminal offense against minors, excessive use of force, violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242; perjury, falsifying a police report or planting and destroying evidence, and deadly physical assault; as well as terminations and complaints against the officers; and
  8. End the qualified immunity doctrine that prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law. To overcome the defense of qualified immunity, require that a victim must show that law enforcement violated “clearly established” law by pointing to a case arising in the same context and involving the same conduct.

Read the full NETWORK vote recommendation on H.R.1280, George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021.

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