House Passes Sweeping Police Reform Bill

The House of Representatives passed a sweeping police reform bill, one month after the killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests.

According to Politico, the bill, drafted by the Congressional Black Caucus, will crackdown on excessive force by police, ban chokeholds, enforce national transparency standards, and push accountability for officer misconduct with a national database to track offenses.

The bill passed by a vote of 263-181. Every Democrat in the House voted in favor of the bill, while just three Republicans backed the bill. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) called the passing of the act a huge step forward in the fight for equality.

“Today’s bipartisan House passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a big step forward in our march toward achieving the ideal of equal justice under law,” Harris said in a released statement. “This legislation is an opportunity for Congress to meet the American people’s demands by specifically addressing the problem of police brutality and holding officers accountable for misconduct.”

The bill passed a day after Senate Democrats blocked a GOP-led police reform bill that would require additional disclosures about the use of force, codify reporting requirements on the use of “no-knock warrants,” and provide incentives for chokehold bans. The bill would also make lynching a federal crime. Senate Democrats considered the bill “flawed” and a non-starter.

However, the House bill has no chance of becoming law as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not take up the package in the Senate and President Trump said he’d veto the bill, ensuring the issues won’t be addressed until at least next year.

Still, House Democrats considered the passage of their bill an important message in a time where the outrage over treatment of African Americans by police has only grown since the protests started. Since the death of Floyd, other incidents of police brutality and racism have become the biggest subject in the country outside the coronavirus pandemic.

Many cities across the country have begun to re-imagine their police force, cutting budgets and reallocating resources to social issues. The Minneapolis City Council amended its city charter which stated there has to be a police department. The amendment changes it to “a department of community safety and violence prevention” that will take “a holistic, public-health-oriented approach.”

The council says the amendment is the opening salvo to defunding the force and replacing it.

The New York City Council is fighting with Mayor Bill de Blasio as it wants to cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget. De Blasio has called for cuts to the police budget but hasn’t said how much.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said the passing of the bill shows Americans, and not just African Americans, want changes in the way police operate.

“This legislation represents the only way forward. If we’ve learned anything from these past weeks, it’s that the American people are demanding systemic change,” Johnson said in a released statement. “We need bold, transformative action to rethink policing and re-imagine public safety in our communities.”