Following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, his family members, President Joe Biden and several lawmakers called for Congress to act on a bill regarding police accountability.
It’s called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, or H.R. 7120; it has passed in the House of Representatives and is currently waiting for debate and a vote in the Senate. It includes several requirements directly related to recent killings of Black Americans by law enforcement.
Here’s what the act includes:
In a section named for Eric Garner, the measure would withhold grant funding from agencies, state or local governments that do not have a law prohibiting the use of a chokehold or carotid hold.
Although many law enforcement agencies do not train officers on chokeholds, they are still used.
The bill defines chokehold or carotid hold as “the application of any pressure to the throat or windpipe” used to “restrict blood or oxygen flow to the brain” or “prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air of an individual.”
The measure would ban no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. Many local municipalities have already passed measures banning these kinds of warrants. They allow law enforcement to execute the warrant without notice of their "authority or purpose."
Following the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March 2020, there were early reports the warrant issued to officers was a no-knock warrant. Whether or not officers actually announced themselves when they arrived at her apartment in the early morning hours has been debated.
In addition to other procedures, the measure would ensure officers are trained about their “clear duty for Federal law enforcement officers to intervene in cases where another law enforcement officer is using excessive force against a civilian.”
A National Police Misconduct Registry would be created to collect data on complaints and other formal records of police misconduct against officers.
The measure would lower the criminal intent standard from willful to knowing or reckless; this could make it easier to convict an officer of misconduct in federal prosecutions, supporters argue.
Qualified immunity is a legal term that protects government officials from being held personally responsible for violations, and is sometimes used in excessive force cases to shield officers.
The measure would end the practice and allow officers to be held accountable if they break the law, supporters say.
Department of Justice
The Department of Justice would be authorized to issue subpoenas in investigating police departments for a potential pattern or practice of discrimination.
Wednesday morning, the day after Chauvin’s conviction, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Department of Justice is opening an investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis.
The measure would also establish requirements for officers and agencies to go through training on implicit bias and racial profiling, as well as wear body cameras.
It also sets out to establish a framework for when use-of-force should be used.
Although Democrats control the Senate, with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, most legislation needs at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
It is not clear at this time if there are several Republicans who support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to allow it to pass the Senate.
The bill was authored by California Representative Karen Bass last summer.