GOP Sen. Tim Scott: I’ve choked on fear when stopped by police. We need the JUSTICE Act.

“I can’t breathe.” These words have become all too familiar for me and many other Americans. This time, these words were choked out by George Floyd, as he lay crushed beneath the weight of three Minneapolis police officers, while a fourth stood by watching. But these words, which have sparked outrage from the streets of Minneapolis to the rest of the nation and the world, are not new.

I, like many other Black Americans, have found myself choking on my own fears and disbelief when faced with the realities of an encounter with law enforcement. At the age of 21, I was pulled over for simply having an improper headlight, and yet the officer felt the need to place his hand on his weapon and call me “boy.” Even today, while I have the privilege of serving as a United States senator, I am not immune to being stopped while driving at home in South Carolina or even while walking onto the grounds of the Capitol. Each time, I hold my breath and each time, I have been able to exhale and go about my business. Thank God!

JUSTICE must be served, and passed

Although I have had some unpleasant experiences with law enforcement, I am optimistic that we are closer to solutions that balance the scales of justice for all Americans.

On Wednesday, I introduced the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. There are three major parts: police reform, accountability and transparency.

First, we need full and accurate information surrounding uses of force. Today, only about 40% of police departments report that information to the FBI. This bill would change that. One provision, known as the George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, will require states to report on all incidents involving the use of force and officer-involved shootings where an individual is killed or seriously injured. A second provision, the Breonna Taylor Notification Act, will similarly require data on the use of no-knock warrants.

Training, accountability, transparency

Second, the bill expands Department of Justice grants to better train and recruit officers. Defunding the police is the wrong answer when it comes to solving the issues in our nation. Instead, this bill provides for training in de-escalation tactics and the duty to intervene when observing excessive uses of force. We know that police encounter high-pressure environments on a daily basis, so this bill seeks to provide the tools officers need to learn how to defuse that pressure. Funding is available for new body cameras, and we will be considering better solutions for police interactions with those with mental health problems, like co-responders in the president’s executive order.

Finally, the third part of the bill focuses on the officers who damage the reputation of the entire profession. This bill prevents a disgraced officer from bouncing from department to department without a record following behind him or her. Moreover, this bill creates an enhanced penalty for officers who falsify their incident reports surrounding an excessive use of force. 

We must do more than inhale and exhale. We must offer more than words and social media posts. The JUSTICE Act is our answer to that silence. It is our nation’s chance to breathe again.

Full article here.