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House Passes Police Reform Bill Eliminating Qualified Immunity For Police, Banning Chokeholds, And More

Washington, DC – The House passed sweeping police reform legislation late on Wednesday night that bans chokeholds, abolishes “no knock” warrants, and eliminates qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed on March 3 by a vote of 220 to 212, will also mandate data collection on police stops and redirect law enforcement funding into community-based policing programs, NPR reported.

“Never again should an unarmed individual be murdered or brutalized by someone who is supposed to serve and protect them,” U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-California) said in a statement after the bill passed. “Never again should the world be subject to witnessing what we saw happen to George Floyd in the streets in Minnesota.”

The bill initially passed in June of 2020 but died in the Senate, CBS News reported.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) proposed a Senate version of the bill but Democrats refused to pass it and complained that it didn’t go far enough because it didn’t eliminate qualified immunity.

Scott said he tried to work with Bass and U.S. Senator Cory Booker to create a piece of bipartisan legislation in the new Congress but ended up saying that a compromise was unlikely, CBS News reported.

“It just depends on their definition of bipartisan,” Scott explained.

The just-passed legislation also incentivizes state attorneys general to investigate police departments and provides states with grants to create better procedures for investigating death of suspects in the custody of police, CBS News reported.

It establishes the creation of a National Police Misconduct Registry and requires law enforcement agencies to submit use-of-force data broken down by race, gender, disability, religion, and age.

The proposed legislation would change the standard for evaluating when use of force is justified and mandates racial bias training to address cultural biases in police departments, according to CBS News.

Before the vote, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) told House members that Minneapolis residents were still traumatized by the death of Floyd as he was being arrested by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, NPR reported.

“Time and time again we have witnessed the people who are sworn to protect our communities abuse their power,” Omar said.

The trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murdering Floyd , begins on March 8 in Hennepin County court, NPR reported.

The vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was supposed to take place on Thursday but was pushed through a night earlier because of alleged threats to the U.S. Capitol on March 4.

U.S. Capitol Police on March 3 announced the department was preparing for a possible attack on the capitol by “an identified militia group.”

The vote also followed one day after Democrats in both chambers of Congress reintroduced legislation to end qualified immunity for police officers.

The proposed bills would abolish the law enforcement officers’ protections from liability for civil damages for actions taken while acting in the capacity of a law enforcement officers, as long as the officer didn’t violate a person’s rights, FOX News reported.

Several states have tackled extreme police reforms ahead of Congress and have targeted the elimination of qualified immunity, NBC News reported.

Colorado voted to eliminate qualified immunity in 2020 and Connecticut voted to significantly limit the coverage of the doctrine that protects police officers from frivolous civil lawsuits for doing their jobs.

“One of the things that has happened in the last 12 months, though, is that many states moved ahead without us, and they started passing reforms,” Bass said, according to NBC News. “So, this time, when we sit down to meet, we can talk about reforms that are already in place.”

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Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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