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Casey, Booker, Harris introduce police reform bill

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is joining U.S. Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), as an original cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill is the first comprehensive legislative approach to ending police brutality and changing the culture of law enforcement departments by holding police accountable in court for egregious misconduct, increasing transparency through better data collection and improving police practices and training.

“We must end police brutality and systematic racism in policing,” said Casey. “It is time for us to create structural change that safeguards every American’s right to safety and equal justice. I am proud to cosponsor the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which will hold police accountable and improve transparency in policing.”

Specifically, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would:

• Hold police accountable in our courts by:

o Amending the mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct, from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;

o Reforming qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that as currently interpreted shields law enforcement officers from being held legally liable for violating an individual’s constitutional rights;

o Improving the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations;

o Incentivizing states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths through grants; and

o Creating best practices recommendations based on President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force.

• Improve transparency into policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force by:

o Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problem-officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability; and

o Mandating state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.

• Improve police training and practices by:

o Ending racial and religious profiling;

o Mandating training on racial bias and the duty to intervene;

o Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;

o Banning chokeholds and carotid holds;

o Changing the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was reasonable to whether the force was necessary;

o Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;

o Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and

o Requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body camera.

• Make lynching a federal crime by:

o Making it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights and criminal justice organizations including:

The National African American Clergy Network, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the National Urban League.

Contributed article