The bill, led by the Congressional Black Party, Democrats on the Justice Committee and Democratic Sensor Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey – comes as the country feels the deaths of several black Americans at the hands of police, including George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis last month after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
The legislation is the most comprehensive effort in recent years to crack down on police practice in the United States, but is expected to meet strong resistance from Republicans, police unions and local officials who do not want Washington to intervene in their decision-making policies.
“This is a strong movement and has made this kind of legislation possible, which was probably impossible to do a month ago,” Booker told CNN in an interview Sunday.
According to a summary document obtained from CNN, the legislation includes a ban on detention, as well as the creation of a national register of negligent treatment “to prevent problem officials from changing their responsibilities to avoid liability.”
The draft also encourages states and local communities to commit to training racial prejudice and to teaching officers about their “duty to intervene”. The draft sets certain restrictions on the transfer of military equipment to military and local law enforcement agencies and requires federal uniformed police to offer the carrying of home cameras.
“It was just unfortunate that he was going to do it that day. It was unnecessary and, frankly, it was very painful for a lot of people,” Booker said.
Legislative efforts come as protests against police brutality and in support of racial justice that have sprung up across the country, both in large cities and in rural communities. Over the weekend, thousands of marches in Washington, DC, gathered at the National Center. Gatherings, vigils, and protests brought news from rural Montana to the streets of Portland, Maine.
Republicans have not yet indicated the embrace that the Democratic Police Act was unveiled on Monday. While Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced last week that she would hold a hearing on police brutality on June 16, many Senate Republicans argue that Congress should not set nationalized police policies and that states should instead in addition, they should take their own actions.
“This is kind of a classic Washington. You have one isolated and tragic event and people extrapolate it and suggest that this problem is an epidemic. And I think it’s terrible what happened to Mr. Floyd and how much he and his family deserve justice, you can’t paint like that with a broad brush and condemn law enforcement and say it’s a systemic failure, ”said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas. “This idea that should suddenly stop the public health crisis in Congress, which, by the way, won’t stay on hold … to get rid of it, is just, I think, hysteria.”
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said he did not think it was possible to find a nationalized, legislative response to police work.
“I don’t think you can find a national, enforceable response to behavior or practice, nor do I think you can come up with a national handbook that really makes sense for departments,” he told CNN last week.
Jeffries rejected the Republican position that Congress should sit aside.
“Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, on the other side of the Capitol, want to keep burying their heads in the sand,” Jeffries said.
“As for the cops I deal with here in New York, the vast majority are good individuals who are diligent and who protect and serve in the community, but we can’t deny that we have too many brutal officers. … We have to deal with this phenomenon. So so many Americans have taken to the streets across the country. “