Top Democrats will unveil a major police reform bill Monday morning as they seek to quickly respond to the demands of protesters nationwide calling for racial justice after the killing of George Floyd.
The bill would make dramatic changes to police policy across the country and undo decades-old laws that Democrats and activists say has led to the deaths of black men and women at the hands of police officers, including 46-year-old Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., two weeks ago.
Before introducing the bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and other top Democrats will first gather in the Capitol in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time an officer knelt of Floyd’s neck.
Thousands of mourners are expected to pay their respects to Floyd in a public memorial in his hometown of Houston on Monday before he is buried Tuesday. Floyd’s brother, Philonese Floyd, is scheduled to testify during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on police brutality on Wednesday.
A wave of protests swept the nation in the days after a video surfaced showing a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd lost consciousness and was later pronounced dead. Chauvin, who has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, will make his first court appearance Monday. Three other officers are also facing charges connected to Floyd’s killing.
Those protests, which continued throughout the weekend, have largely been peaceful after early, and sometimes violent, clashes with police across in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., among other cities.
“This moment is incredibly inspiring — to see people all across the country saying enough is enough,” Bass said on CNN Sunday. “In many cities you look at the protesters and there are very few African Americans. So the solidarity…is very inspiring and I am hopeful that it helps us get the legislation passed.”
While the legislation proposes a sweeping overhaul of current laws — including moving to ban chokeholds and making it easier to sue police officers who unjustly injure or kill citizens — it doesn’t answer liberals’ most aggressive demand to “defund the police.” Police departments are largely funded at the state and local level, although there is significant federal aid.
Democrats want to lower the federal threshold for when police officers can be charged with using excessive force and limit “qualified immunity” which currently shields officers from lawsuits over their misconduct, according to a draft outline obtained by POLITICO.
Democrats are also seeking to create a “National Police Misconduct Registry,” end racial profiling, bar the use of “no-knock” arrest warrants in drug cases, develop a national standard on using force, and limit the transfer of military equipment to police departments, among other initiatives.
The legislation would also make lynching a federal crime. A proposal to do that was held up in the Senate last week by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who wants to narrow the definition of lynching.
But it’s unclear if the Democratic police reform bill, which powerful police unions will surely oppose, will receive bipartisan support — a necessary component in the GOP-controlled Senate.
House Democrats plan to mark up the bill in the Judiciary Committee in two weeks, and put it on the floor for final passage by the end of June. Schumer has called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the legislation before the Senate by July 4.
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