How the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act may limit police powers
Kamala Harris calls on Congress to ‘reform the system’ following Derek Chauvin guilty verdict
The White House is pushing ahead with a major police reform bill aimed at limiting US police powers despite fierce Republican opposition.
Speaking shortly after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted yesterday of the murder of George Floyd, Vice President Kamala Harris said that while “we feel a sigh of relief”, the guilty verdict “cannot take away the pain”.
“A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice,” she said in an address from the White House. “This verdict brings us a step closer and, the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system.”
Harris co-sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last year, in the wake of the killing. The legislation cleared the Democrat-held House of Representatives only to be crushed in the Senate.
However, the bill was reintroduced and last month again “passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but every Republican voted against it”, says The Telegraph.
“In the Senate, which is split 50-50, it would need 60 votes to pass,” the paper continues - a level of support that could prove tricky to muster in the face of the opposition from the Republicans.
If that hurdle can be overcome, the “hotly debated legislation” will make it easier for the public to “successfully sue abusive officers and cut police departments off from the supply of military-grade equipment that they say they need to stay safe”, news and information site Poynter reports.
The policing act also refers to forcing police to undergo training “on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling”, while banning “chokeholds” and requiring that “deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first”.
So-called “no knock” warrants, which allow police to enter a property without alerting the inhabitants first, would also be banned. As The Telegraph notes, a “no knock” warrant was “used before the death of Breonna Taylor last year”.
The bill would also see the introduction of a National Police Misconduct Registry, as well as ending legal protections known as “qualified immunity” for law enforcement.
Joe Biden has “thrown his weight” behind the legislation, the paper adds, with his party pledging to work with Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, to reach a “compromise” to pave the way for the legislation to pass into law.
While the Chauvin conviction has been welcomed by Democrats, many see it as “no substitute for broader action on police reform”, says The Hill.
The guilty verdict has “raised pressure on Senate Republicans to pass the bill”, the site adds, though “partisan divides” on police reform have “prevented any bills from making it to the president’s desk in recent years”.