Wednesday | June 17, 2020

JUSTICE Act Introduced in United States Senate

Addresses Police Reform, Accountability and Transparency

WASHINGTON – This morning, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Lankford (R-OK) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) announced the introduction of the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. The legislation provides long-term solutions focused on police reform, accountability and transparency, while also promoting efforts to find solutions to systemic issues affecting people of color such as education and health disparities.

“Now is the time for reform,” Senator Scott said. “The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath made clear from sea to shining sea that action must be taken to rebuild lost trust between communities of color and law enforcement. The JUSTICE Act takes smart, commonsense steps to address these issues, from ending the use of chokeholds and increasing the use of body worn cameras, to providing more resources for police departments to better train officers and make stronger hiring decisions. I want to thank Leader McConnell and the entire task force not just for their hard work on putting this bill together, but for their commitment to finding real solutions.”

“I am honored to join my colleagues today to introduce the JUSTICE Act, which offers solutions to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities by increasing training, transparency, and accountability,” said Lankford. “Hundreds of thousands of state, local, and federal law enforcement officers in Oklahoma and around the nation continue to do the right thing, the right way, daily. However, the service of great officers gets overshadowed by the actions of a few that abuse their position. Transparency, accountability and training will allow the thousands of good officers to shine and will expose the motives of those who are not providing equal justice. Legislative action is required to end the use of chokeholds and to bring more consistency under the law. Justice should not be a partisan issue. I look forward to partnering with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with the White House as we work toward racial reconciliation and improved relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

 “I really appreciate Senator Scott’s leadership putting together a police reform proposal that will make a difference," stated Senator Lindsey Graham. “This proposal reinforces the need for better community policing, best practices and creating more transparency when it comes to reporting encounters with law enforcement throughout the country. I hope our Democratic colleagues will take this proposal seriously, and that all of us work together to find common ground to bring reform to policing in America.”

“It is our job in Congress to listen to voices across our country and heed calls for justiceThat does not mean defunding the police. The answer is to improve policing, not to defund or eliminate it. This is what the JUSTICE Act does: makes significant improvements to our nation’s law enforcement system. There is absolutely no conflict between being pro-civil rights and being pro-law enforcementThe JUSTICE Act supports our police officers while bringing about positive change that will help guarantee equal protection to all of our citizens. This police reform bill will make a real difference in advancing our constitutional ideals and in making our communities safer. I am proud to stand with Senator Tim Scott and my other colleagues in introducing this legislation today and look forward to it becoming law,” Senator Capito said.

“When I spoke with George Floyd’s family last week, they asked me for one thing: justice. That is what we set out to do with this legislation,” said Sen. Cornyn. “The JUSTICE Act is a package of significant reforms that already have bipartisan support, so there’s no excuse for Democrats to reject them out of hand. Although many of the changes to reform policing in our communities will happen at the local level, we can help stem racial inequality and ensure America’s police are more responsibly serving our communities.”

 “The murder of George Floyd has been seared into our national conscience,” Senator Sasse said. “America’s promise of equal justice under the law cannot depend on the color of your skin. Americans can rise to this moment, and that’s what the JUSTICE Act aims to help. We’re proposing real solutions to bring transparency, provide resources, and build trust between our communities and the police. I’m grateful for Senator Scott’s leadership and hard work on reforms that should get a unanimous vote of support here in the Senate. Let’s do this.”

The full text of the JUSTICE Act is here, and a section by section analysis is here. A summary is below.

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

Accountability

  • 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

Transparency

  • 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

Additional Steps

  • 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

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