When Walter Scott was murdered by a police officer in my hometown of North Charleston in 2015, I immediately stepped forward to begin offering solutions. I introduced the Walter Scott Notification Act, to require police departments report every time an officer’s weapon was discharged. I also authored the Safer Officers and Safer Citizens Act to ensure widespread use of body cameras by jurisdictions across the country.
Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, I led the charge to build a comprehensive package in the United States Senate that focused on police reform, transparency and accountability. The JUSTICE Act would accomplish the following:
Law Enforcement Reform
- The JUSTICE Act strengthens the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, providing law enforcement with new funding to do so, and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds
- Additionally, the bill will reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve
- The JUSTICE Act also ensures when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary records
- Too often, after a tragic incident, we have learned the offending officer had a disciplinary past in another jurisdiction of which their current employer was unaware
- Studies show that when body cameras are properly used, violent encounters decrease significantly
- The JUSTICE Act will put more body cameras on the streets, and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly
- JUSTICE also requires a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers
- Currently, only about 40 percent of police officers from jurisdictions nationwide report to the FBI after an incident where an officer has discharged his or her weapon or used force
- The bill will require full reporting in these two areas
- There is also very little data as to when, where and why no knock warrants are used, and the JUSTICE Act will require reporting in this area as well
- The JUSTICE Act will finally make lynching a federal crime
- It also creates two commissions to study and offer solutions to a broader range of challenges facing black men and boys, and the criminal justice system as a whole
While Senate Democrats have so far blocked any effort to pass reforms in the Senate, I will continue fighting.