A number of proposals are being advanced, both by elected officials and activists, to combat use of excessive force and racial discrimination by police in the United States. A new bill in Congress offers a host of proposals, while some activists are calling for even more dramatic change.
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 backed by House Democrats contains many proposals that have been raised without success in the past. Despite a national outcry for change, the future of the sweeping bill unveiled Monday is still uncertain in the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill calls for, among other things:
- A ban on the use of chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level
- Requiring police at the federal level to use deadly force only as a last resort after employing a series of de-escalation tactics
- Changing the standard to evaluate whether the use of force by police was justified from whether the force was “reasonable” to whether the force was “necessary.”
- Banning certain no-knock warrants at the federal level
- Establishing a national database to track police misconduct
- Creating a Department of Justice task force to coordinate federal, state, and local investigation and prosecution of police misconduct cases
- Requiring police agencies to report data on the use of force
- Changing “qualified immunity,” the legal doctrine that shields officers from lawsuits, by lowering the bar for people to sue officers for alleged civil rights violations
- Changing federal law to make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct
- Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local authorities
- Requiring all uniformed federal officers to wear body cameras, and all marked federal cruisers to have dashboard cameras
- Conditioning federal funding on state and local adoption of various reforms adopted at the federal level, including the ban on chokeholds and carotid holds, the ban on certain no-knock warrants, and the requirement for use of de-escalation tactics before deadly force is used
Campaign Zero, which formed in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson, Mo., has offered some similar proposals in its #8cantwait campaign “to bring immediate change to police departments.”
Other activists and some politicians are calling for even more dramatic change, saying the police should be “defunded." The general idea is that police budgets should be cut and the savings should be used to support other areas of need, such as mental health services, housing, and education. In Minneapolis, the City Council has pledged to dismantle the police, but it’s not clear what will emerge as an alternative.
The idea of defunding police has gotten little support from top Democrats, including presidential contender Joe Biden. But Republican President Donald Trump and his allies have attempted to link them to it.
US Representative Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was asked about the idea of defunding the police at a news conference unveiling the police reform bill on Monday. She said, “Part of that cry is a desire for there to be significant higher investment in communities. ... On behalf of the Black Caucus, let me just say that obviously we’re focusing on this bill right now. But we do have other legislation coming along the lines in the form of jobs and justice which gets at a lot of issues in the community.”
Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at email@example.com.