Illinois Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin have co-sponsored sweeping law enforcement legislation in Congress in the wake of nationwide protests and riots. Durbin and Duckworth joined several other Senate Democrats in introducing the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
The act would prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from profiling of any kind and mandate training on discriminatory policing; mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras; establishes a national misconduct registry to prevent officers who are fired or leave an agency to another jurisdiction who has been deemed problematic to move on to another job without accountability; amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct; reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights; Establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to adjust public safety approaches; creates law enforcement development and training programs previously recommended under the Obama Administration; requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age; 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; and establishes a DOJ task force to coordinate the investigations and prosecution of law enforcement misconduct.
The Democrat-led and sponsored bill has received numerous endorsements from a broad group of civil rights organizations across the country. Despite the widespread Democratic support, the bill is likely to face Republican opposition. Criminal justice reform has often hit snags at the federal level, as Republicans have often deferred policing laws to state and local governments. The legislation does not address growing calls by some groups to defund police departments.
The House of Representatives are expected to take up the measure when they return to session on June 30th. Before unveiling the package, House and Senate Democrats held a moment of silence at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall for 8 minutes 46 seconds to symbolize the amount of time it took for George Floyd’s death to occur at the hands of Minneapolis Police over a week ago.