Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas Joins Congressional Black Caucus in Announcing the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, Which Incorporates the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust And Integrity Act of 2020 and the End Racial Profiling Act to Usher in Systemic Changes in Policing Practices Across the United States
Jackson Lee: “Black Lives Matter.”
Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the House Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Budget, released this statement regarding the introduction of the Justice In Policing Act of 2020, landmark legislation championed by the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Democrats to bring systematic change to policing practices that were infected with systemic racism that visited untold and undeserved suffering on the African American community, the primary victims of police brutality and abuse:
“As a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Working Group on Police Strategies, as an original cosponsor but also a mother of a young African American male who knows the pain and anxiety that African Americans mothers feel until they can hug their sons and daughters who return home safely, and for all those relatives and friends who grieve over the loss a loved one whose life and future was wrongly and cruelly interrupted or ended by mistreatment at the hands of the police, I proudly join my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus in introducing the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
“This legislation is designed to destroy the pillars of systemic racism in policing practices that has victimized communities of color, and especially African Americans for decades, is overdue. Too long overdue. But for one who has made reforming an unjust and unequal criminal justice system the work of my tenure in Congress, today is a defining moment in the history of our country.
“With the introduction of the Justice in Policing Act, the Congress of the United States goes on record against racial profiling in policing. Against the excessive, unjustified, and discriminatory use of lethal and force by law enforcement officers against persons of color. Against tolerating the employment of practices that encourage systemic mistreatment of persons because of their race.
“Today, with the introduction of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, the government of the United States is declaring firmly, forcefully, and unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. It is true all lives matter, they always have. But that Black lives matter too, and that as in so matter other areas of civic life, this nation has not always lived up to its promise and that the promise is worthy of fulfilling.
“The horrifying killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police office shocked and awakened the moral consciousness of the nation. Untold millions have seen the terrifying last moments of a black man taking his last breaths face down in the street with his neck under the knee of a police officer indifferent to his cries for help and pleading that he ‘can’t breathe.’ In response, for the past week civil protests against police brutality have occurred nightly in cities large and small all across the nation.
“These protests are a direct reaction to the horrific killing of George Floyd but are most motivated by a deep-seated anger and frustration to the separate and unequal justice African Americans receive at the hands of too many law enforcement officers. The civil disobedience being witnessed nightly in the streets of America are also in memory of countless acts of the inequality and cruelty visited upon young African American men and women no longer with us in body but forever with us in memory.
“Beloved souls like Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky; Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California; Eric Garner and Sean Bell in New York City; Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas; Jordan Baker in Houston, Texas; 12-year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland; and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and 17-year old Trayvon Martin of Sanford, Florida. They remember as well the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Treyvon Martin by self-appointed vigilantes.
“Indeed, the history goes back much further, past Amidou Diallo in New York City, past the Central Park Five, past Emmitt Till, past the racist abuse of law enforcement power during the struggle for civil rights and equal treatment. Every African American parent, and every African America child, knows all too well ‘The Talk’ and the importance of abiding by the rules for surviving interactions with the police.
“As I have stated many times, direct action is vitally important but to be effective it must be accompanied by political, legislative, and governmental action, which is necessary because the strength and foundation of democratic government rests upon the consent and confidence of the governed. Effective enforcement of the law and administration of justice requires the confidence of the community that the law will be enforced impartially and that all persons are treated equally without regard to race or ethnicity or religion or national origin. As the great jurist Judge Learned Hand said: “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: thou shalt not ration justice.”
“While many police officers take this responsibility seriously and strive to treat all persons equally and with respect, their efforts are too often undermined by some of their colleagues who abuse the enormous trust and confidence placed in them. And systemically racist systems and practices left in place can corrupt even the most virtuous police officers.
Our finest police officers take to heart the ethos of guardians of public safety and liberty, not warriors against the people of the republic they swore to protect and the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend. So, the most important criminal justice reforms needed to improve the criminal justice system are those that will increase public confidence and build trust and mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they swear an oath and are willing to risk their lives to protect and serve.
“That is the overriding purpose and aim of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which contains numerous provisions to weed out and eliminate systemic racism in police practices. Specifically, this legislation holds police accountable in our courts by:
Amending the mens rea requirement in federal law (18 U.S.C. Section 242) to prosecute police misconduct from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;
Reforming qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights;
Incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations and improving the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power;
Incentivizing states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths; and
Creating best practices recommendations based on the Obama 21st Century Policing Task force.
“In the 115th Congress, I introduced H.R. 1810, the “Collection and Analysis of Data to Educate and Train Law Enforcement Officers (“CADET Act”). The purpose of this legislation was to enhance the collection and inclusion in the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) of data relating to law-enforcement officer incidents involving the following uses of lethal force, either (1) the use of force by law enforcement officers, including both justified and unjustified uses of force resulting in death or injury; or (2) use of force against law enforcement officers.
The CADET Act would require law enforcement agencies to report not just the incidents of officer-involved use of lethal force, but also information relating to the facts and circumstances of each death, specifically including the age, race, gender, religion, criminal history, if any, of the victim; and the age, race, gender of the officer involved in the homicide, as well as other relevant information relating to the officer involved such as the number of prior officer involved shootings and uses of lethal force, number and disposition of citizen complaints (formal and informal) filed against the officer and a the nature and description of any disciplinary actions taken against the officer.
“I am pleased that major elements of my legislation are incorporated in the Justice in Policing Act provisions to improve transparency into policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force. The Justice in Policing Act creates a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problem officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability; and mandates that state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
I am also very pleased that the Justice in Policing Act we introduce today contains provisions to improve police training and practices by banning racial and religious profiling with the incorporation of the End Racial Profiling Act, which I also introduced as H.R. 4339. The End Racial Profiling Act provides a prohibition on racial profiling, enforceable by declaratory or injunctive relief.
Second, the bill mandates that training on racial profiling issues as part of Federal law enforcement training, the collection of data on all routine or spontaneous investigatory activities that is to be submitted through a standardized form to the Department of Justice. Third, the Justice Department is authorized to provide grants for the development and implementation of best policing practices, such as early warning systems, technology integration, and other management protocols that discourage profiling. Finally, the Attorney General is required to provide periodic reports to assess the nature of any ongoing discriminatory profiling practices.
“Other important provisions in the Justice in Policing Act, include mandating training on racial bias and the duty to intervene; banning no-knock warrants in drug cases; and banning chokeholds and carotid holds, like the one used by an NYPD police officer on Eric Garner. The legislation limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement, a proposal I have long supported, and which the nation saw was necessary after the witnessing the misuse and abuse of that equipment in Ferguson, Missouri during the protests sparked by the killing of Michael Brown.
“Additionally, the Justice in Policing Act requires federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras. Not to be overlooked is another provision in the Justice in Policing Act that has great substantive and symbolic power. At long last, after over a century of struggle, the heinous act of lynching is made a federal crime as is conspiring to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.
“Finally, the legislation includes as Title I, Subtitle B, the bipartisan and bicameral George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, which I introduced as H.R. 7100. This legislation provides incentives for local police organizations to voluntarily adopt performance-based standards to ensure that incidents of deadly force or misconduct will be minimized through appropriate management and training protocols and properly investigated, should they occur. The legislation directs the Department of Justice to work cooperatively with independent accreditation, law enforcement and community-based organizations to further develop and refine the accreditation standards and grants conditional authority to the Department of Justice to make grants to law enforcement agencies for the purpose of obtaining accreditation from certified law enforcement accreditation organizations.
“The necessary, vital reform provisions contained in the Justice in Policing Act are urgently needed to be put in place. But in the final analysis, if we are to succeed in the vital mission of building trust and mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they serve, law enforcement officers need better training to really see the persons who live and work and play in the communities they patrol. To really see them, with all their hopes, their goodness and imperfections, their fears and pains and dreams for their children, their faith in God, and their love for their culture, community, and country.
“To see them, to see their humanity full and entire, mandatory training for law enforcement must include not just tactical training and firearms proficiency but the more important training in non-violent conflict resolution and violence de-escalation and educational programs that teach how to recognize and overcome unconscious and implicit biases and that teach and instill a deep understanding and respect for procedural justice and fairness and how to practice it. After all, there is much wisdom in the saying of Johann von Goethe: “Treat people as if they were what they should be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
“There is still much work to do to bind up the nation’s wounds and continue on the path to creating a more perfect union, one that fully and finally accepts responsibility and reconciliation for the lasting and lingering damage inflicted on African Americans by slavery, America’s Original Sin. That is why I introduced H.R. 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals For African Americans Act.
“The time for the Justice In Policing Act is now because we know and feel the pain of relatives and friends who have lost a loved one at the hands, by the gun, or at the knee of bad police officers. We know the anguish and the fear of living in a nation that has criminal justice systems and police practices that mete out unequal justice. And like Rev. Dr. King, writing from the Birmingham Jail, we know must act boldly now because justice cannot wait. As with realizing the Dream described so well by Dr. King at another great gathering in Washington, the work of transforming policing practices in America is a job for all Americans of all races, religions, genders, ethnicities from every region of the country.
“Let us begin.”
Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat representing the 18th Congressional District of Texas, is a senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary, Homeland Security and the Budget.