Steve Cohen

03/03/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/03/2021 21:16

Congressman Cohen Heartened at Passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

WASHINGTON - Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, tonight expressed deep satisfaction at the passage of the groundbreaking George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which he believes will help build trust between police departments and the communities they serve. The measure contains major elements of bills Congressman Cohen authored, including the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, the Police CAMERA Act, and Police Training and Independent Review Act.

The vote on passage was 220 to 212.

Before the vote, Congressman went to the floor of the House to urge its passage. He said:

'I rise in strong support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I started my career as the legal advisor to the Memphis Police Department. There were many fine policemen. Most of them never used a chokehold, never used their guns, and operated admirably. Some did not. The disproportionate rate at which African Americans have suffered from killings by police shows we need to act. You can't think of George Floyd being choked with a knee and killed for eight minutes - you can't think of Eric Garner being wrestled down like a prized trophy animal and killed on Staten Island, or young Tamir Rice, shot without an officer taking a second to think about it. These deaths require us to act. This is not 'defund the police.' This is 'reform the police,' and save human lives. We should pass this bill today. We should have passed it 40 years ago when I was a police attorney. Pass it now.'

See Congressman Cohen's floor speech here.

Of the elements of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act authored by Congressman Cohen, the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act bill would require federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to collect, compile, and submit data to the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Statistics on the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. The Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act would authorize the DOJ's Bureau of Justice Assistance to make grants to state, local, and tribal governments to purchase or lease body-worn cameras for use by law enforcement officers and to implement body-worn camera programs. The Police Training and Independent Review Act would authorize the DOJ to award grants to states that require law enforcement officers to be trained in diversity and sensitivity and require an independent prosecutor to be appointed to investigate and prosecute alleged offenses involving the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers that result in death or injury.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, named for the 46-year-old Minneapolis man killed last May when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, is supported by:

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National Urban League, National Action Network, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Demand Progress, National African American Clergy Network (NAACN), National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Black Women's Roundtable, Black Millennial Convention, American Association for Justice, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, United Negro College Fund, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, League of Women Voters, YWCA USA, Brennan Center For Justice, Third Way, America Forward, Southeast Asia Resource Center (SEARAC), National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady: United Against Violence, Congressional Progressive Caucus, New Democrat Coalition, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, Center for American Progress, Recording Industry of America (RIAA), Songwriters of North America (SONA), Future of Music Coalition (FMC), Black Music Coalition (BMAC), Music Artists' Coalition (MAC), and American Association of Independent Music (A1IM).

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 will:

Work to End Racial & Religious Profiling

• Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling.

• Mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.

• Requires law enforcement to collect data on all investigatory activities.

Save Lives by Banning Chokeholds & No-Knock Warrants

• Bans chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning chokeholds.

• Bans no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning no-knock warrants at the local and state level.

• Requires that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first. Changes the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was 'reasonable' to whether the force was 'necessary.' Condition grants on state and local law enforcement agencies' establishing the same use of force standard.

Limit Military Equipment on American Streets & Requires Body Cameras

• Limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.

• 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.

• Requires marked federal police vehicles to have dashboard cameras.

Hold Police Accountable in Court

• Makes it easier to prosecute offending officers by amending the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct. The mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242 will be amended from 'willfulness' to a 'recklessness' standard.

• Enables individuals to recover damages in civil court when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement.

Investigate Police Misconduct

• Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.

Empower Our Communities to Reimagine Public Safety in an Equitable and Just Way

• This bill reinvests in our communities by supporting critical community-based programs to change the culture of law enforcement and empower our communities to reimagine public safety in an equitable and just way.

• It establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches. These local commissions would operate similar to President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Change the Culture of Law Enforcement with Training to Build Integrity and Trust

• Requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama's Taskforce on 21st Century policing.

• Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices.

• Studies the impact of laws or rules that allow a law enforcement officer to delay answers to questions posed by investigators of law enforcement misconduct.

• Enhances funding for pattern and practice discrimination investigations and programs managed by the DOJ Community Relations Service.

• Requires the Attorney General to collect data on investigatory actions and detentions by federal law enforcement agencies; the racial distribution of drug charges; the use of deadly force by and against law enforcement officers; as well as traffic and pedestrian stops and detentions.

• Establishes a DOJ task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

Improve Transparency by Collecting Data on Police Misconduct and Use-of-Force

• Creates a nationwide police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave one agency, from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.

• Mandates state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.

Stop Sexual Assault in Law Enforcement Custody

• Makes it a crime for a federal law enforcement officer to engage in a sexual act with an individual who is under arrest, in detention, or in custody. It prohibits consent as a defense to prosecution for unlawful conduct. Incentivizes states to set the same standards.