Congressional Democrats are expected to roll out sweeping police reform legislation Monday, following nearly two weeks of sustained protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing in police custody.
“Persistent, unchecked bias in policing and a history of lack of accountability is wreaking havoc on the Black community,” reads the outline, which lists Floyd’s name along with those of other African Americans who have been killed in encounters with officers.
“Cities are literally on fire with the pain and anguish wrought by the violence visited upon black and brown bodies,” it reads. “There are countless others whose stories we will never know.”
The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.).
It was not clear whether Republicans in Congress or President Trump would back the bill.
In recent days, some Republicans have expressed support for legislation to rein in police violence, but it remains to be seen whether they will support elements of the expansive proposal offered by the Democrats. In August, after the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, there was a push for bipartisan gun violence legislation — an effort that stalled weeks later.
The House Judiciary Committee has planned a hearing Wednesday, the first on police issues since the protests broke out. The Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing slated for June 16.
The bill contains several provisions that would make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct in civil and criminal court. One proposal long sought by civil rights advocates would change “qualified immunity,” the legal doctrine that shields officers from lawsuits, by lowering the bar for plaintiffs to sue officers for alleged civil rights violations.
Another section would change federal law so that victims of excessive force or other violations need only show that officers “recklessly” deprived them of their rights. The current statute requires victims to show that officers’ actions were “willful.”
The bill would also expand the Justice Department’s powers to investigate and prosecute police misconduct, according to the outline, which said those capabilities had been “undermined by the Trump administration.” It would grant subpoena power to the department’s Civil Rights Division to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations, looking for departmentwide evidence of bias or misconduct, and provide grants to state attorneys general to do the same.
Other provisions seek to directly change police practices.
The bill seeks to ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level, while pressuring states and municipalities to enact similar prohibitions by withholding funding.
Those types of maneuvers have fueled outrage over police brutality in recent days. Floyd died after then-officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on the 46-year-old black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis late last month. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was fatally shot in March by Louisville police officers serving a no-knock warrant.
To keep “problematic” officers from bouncing from one law enforcement agency to another, the bill would create a “national police misconduct registry” to compile complaints and discipline records, according to the outline.
It would also limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
Additionally, the outline covers broad proposals to prevent discrimination by law enforcement, creating a cause of action for racial profiling in civil court, conditioning federal funding for state and local law enforcement on anti-discrimination policies and requiring the U.S. attorney general to collect data on racial profiling.
“While there is no single policy prescription that will erase the decades of systemic racism and excessive policing,” the outline reads, “it’s time we create structural change with meaningful reforms.”
Democratic leaders are scheduled to unveil the legislation at 10:30 a.m. Monday in the Capitol.
Paul Kane contributed to this report.