Congress: Enjoy Your Recess, But Here Are Six Police Reform Bills You Must Pass In September

This week, we continued to mourn the loss of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police officers. But the reality is that we've been in mourning for victims of color of police violence for a long time: Anthony Hill (Ga.), Laquan McDonald (Ill.), Freddie Gray (Md.), Aura Rosser (Mich.), Michael Brown (Mo.), Eric Garner (N.Y.), Tamir Rice (Ohio), Walter Scott (S.C.), Sandra Bland (Texas), Antonio Zambrano-Montes (Wash.), and Dontre Hamilton (Wis.).

Members of Congress: These are your constituents. These are lives that matter to families, friends, and communities, and they should matter to you too. This is why we say their names.

We have a crisis on our hands. Excessive violence, including fatal police shootings of people of color, must end. We have been focused on bad apple cops when we really need to focus on reforming an entire system. Fairness and justice demand that we act in this moment.

Congress serves an important function in building trust and legitimacy between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The federal government annually provides billions of dollars and resources to law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Where is the guidance and accountability?

And advancing legislative reform is not an attack on law enforcement. It is clear that current policing strategies are not working. But while the relationship between law enforcement and many communities of color is broken, we have to believe it is not be beyond repair. Both constituencies should want intervention. 

Last week, the ACLU sent a letter requesting that Congress take up six bills that could take the first steps to repair the relationship between community and police:  

The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (H.R. 2875, S. 2168), sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), provides law enforcement with resources for accreditation, best practices, training, and other resources to increase trust between police and community. The bill also mandates data collection on use of force and other police-community encounters, so the public can begin to know what policing looks like in this country.

The End Racial Profiling Act (H.R. 1933, S. 1056), also introduced by Rep. Conyers and Sen. Cardin, prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling and other biased policing. The bill would help law enforcement meet this mandate through training, funding, and data collection. As the Department of Justice formally acknowledged at the end of June, “most people experience some degree of unconscious bias.” Implicit and explicit biases have no place in policing.    

The Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act (H.R. 5221), sponsored by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), would require police to be trained on de-escalation techniques that focus on preserving life. The legislation builds upon Police Executive Research Forum guiding principles on use of force and its belief that “the preservation of life has always been at the heart of American policing.”

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 1232, S. 1441), offered by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), would prohibit the transfer of some of the most dangerous  military weapons from the federal government to state and local law enforcement. Tanks, grenades, bayonets, and other weapons of war have no business in our communities.      

The Police CAMERA Act (H.R. 1680, S. 877) is sponsored by Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and provides federal resources to state and local law enforcement so they can develop safe and effective body-worn camera programs that also protect civilians’ privacy rights. Communities and law enforcement agree that cameras can be a part of the solution, but they must be implemented the right way.

The DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283, S. 3045) is a response to the controversial practice of civil asset forfeiture from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The bill levels the playing field for individuals who want to challenge law enforcement’s seizure of their property by providing access to counsel, an increased burden of proof for the government, and other procedural protections.

It’s time that Congress becomes a part of the solution, or it will continue to be a part of the problem. When Congress returns from recess in September, they must get to the business of police reform. 

View comments (18)
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geem0ney

Actually the "fable" of hands up don't shoot was supported by the officer who said Mike Brown put his hands up but then he made up the story of him putting his head down and charging. That was a lie because the officer said in a statement to his sargeant that when he begin chasing things went dark and when it cleared Mike Brown lay at his feet. He looked down at the top of his head and fired a shot. Then the officers story changed and he alleged that Mike Brown charged him with his head down and hands up, "like a deranged animal" or Bull.

Larry Law

We should have nonconfrontational policing, a busted taillight should be a ticket sent to the car owners address, just like traffic cameras,a lot these so called routine traffic stops, result in death and can/should be avoided.Also, revenue generation at the risk of the poor= and endless cycle of poverty.

Anonymous

This is an excellent suggestion!

Anonymous

Enough is enough! Please share far and wide:

Prevent Israeli Training Of US Police

Here is a petition requesting a halt to the training of US police as an occupying force:

petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-it-illegal-send-american-police-israel-training

Eric Hamilton

I just read all 6 bills... I'm still shaking my head...
The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act is a weak bill. This bill provides training but does not specifically mandate it. It allows the Attorney General to make recommendations. It encourages accountability. Encourage?
The End Racial Profiling Act is interesting, but how do you prove the act has been violated? Cops are perpetual liars.
The Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act is interesting but only grant receiving localities would be subject to the conditions of this bill.
The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act is a joke. Tanks and grenades are not killing our people. Bad cops with hand guns are killing our people.
The Police CAMERA Act assists police departments in purchasing body cameras. There is no language mandating usage!
The DUE PROCESS Act. What? Due Process is guaranteed by the Constitution. Why do we need a bill for something that is guanteed by the Constitution?

In addition, local governments who recieve a Justice Assist Grant (federal grant) would have to comply with these laws.
About 1600 local governments recieve these grants annual. There are over 89,000 local governments in the United States.
Most local governments would be exempt from following these laws.

I'm not a lawyer. I'm a computer dude. You lawyers and politicians should be ashamed for wasting time and tax payer dollars on bills that will make no difference!

Anonymous

I am inclined to agree. The idea of passing laws requiring data collection, etc seems destined to lead mostly to paperwork, not to changing action. I would love to help work on something more concrete and immediate that will actually help reduce the level of fear and confrontation between police and citizens.

Zach Lee

These reformations in congress are a vital step in mending the relationship between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. Police officers have been known across the country to unfairly discriminate against people of color. For example, in Arizona they actually passed a law that allows discrimination. While African-Americans are discriminated against daily in the United States. 12 year old black boys are not only discriminated against but also shot and killed.

Anonymous

Why not pass a law that requires people to put hands behind head automatic when encounter police

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