WASHINGTON, NJ –Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020,the first-ever comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and communities. The bill is supported by 166 representatives and 35 senators, including New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).

“America has a serious and deadly problem when it comes to the discriminatory and excessive policing of communities of color - and that policing exists within a system that time and again refuses to hold police accountable for their brutality,” Booker said in a release. “For too long, this has been accepted as a cruel reality of being black in this country. We are forced to figure out how to keep ourselves safe from law enforcement, and we are viewed as a threat to be protected against instead of people worth protecting. And for too long, Congress has failed to act. That ends today with the landmark Justice in Policing Act which, for the first time in history, will take a comprehensive approach to ending police brutality. On the back-end, the bill fixes our federal laws so law enforcement officers are held accountable for egregious misconduct and police abuses are better tracked and reported. And on the front-end, the bill improves police practices and training to prevent these injustices from happening in the first place.”

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020:

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  • Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
  • Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
  • Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
  • Establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave on agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
  • Amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.
  • Reforms qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.
  • Establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
  • Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Task force on 21st century policing.
  • Requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.
  • Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
  • Establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights organizations including: Demand Progress, Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Action Network, National African American Clergy Network, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), Black Millennial Convention, and the National Urban League.

“Americans across the country, including tens of thousands in towns large and small across North Jersey, have come together to voice their support for systemic change,” said Sherrill. “New Jersey has faced its own history of citizens demanding change and federal engagement in programs to address the needs of our community. We have also seen the success of law enforcement in our state when members work to listen to our communities and build a brighter future alongside our residents. This legislation takes those New Jersey values and lessons that work well at home and helps to apply them across the country: the values of communication, growth, and an openness to change. At the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, I worked as an Outreach and Re-entry Coordinator and an Assistant U.S. Attorney. I have seen the best of our law enforcement community and the commitment that they have made to the public’s safety. But I’ve also seen too many examples of where our system falls desperately short. One of the reasons I was drawn to public service was the need for criminal justice reform at the federal level. This legislation is another step in the fight for justice in this country and I’m proud to support that effort.”

“For the past four-plus centuries, Black people have continuously been made to endure unfair, unjust, and inhumane treatment in this country,” said Waikinya J.S. Clanton, MBA Black Millennial Convention. “We have been made to believe in that if we worked hard, never complained, and accepted what the world offered that would be enough. What the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others have taught us is that obedience will never be enough; liberty and justice for all applies to everyone but us; and by us, we mean Black Americans, African Americans, Afro-Americans, or plainly put, Black people.”

Full text of the legislation is available here.

A section-by-section summary of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is available here.

A fact sheet on the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is available here.

 

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