by Tyler Williams
A George Floyd mural by artist Daniel Anguilu in Houston's Graffiti Park. (Daniel Anguilu/USA TODAY)
To reform or to abolish? That is the question for law enforcement officials, lawmakers, and the people regarding police officers in the United States. The George Floyd Policing Act of 2020 is still sitting in the Senate since the House passed the bill on June 25th, 2020. This police reform bill intends to do the following actions if it becomes law, according to the United States Congress website. “It will lower the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution, it will limit qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer, and will grant administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations.”
In simple terms, it will hold police officers more accountable for their harmful illegal actions, a police officer who has committed misconduct will be personally liable for private civil lawsuits, and give the Department of Justice jurisdiction to investigate the police administration in question to see if corrupt practices have been recurring. The Hill reports if signed into law, racial profiling at every level of law enforcement would be prohibited; chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants would be banned at the federal level; qualified immunity for officers would be overhauled; and a national police misconduct registry would be created so officers who were fired for such discretions could not be hired by another police department.
While Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer, has been convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, for the killing of George Floyd, accountability has been taken place, but justice has yet to be served for George Floyd, according to Bernie Sanders, (D-VT).
“The jury's verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person.” — Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 20, 2021
President Biden urges Congress to pass this bill by the end of May, according to The Hill. “Now is our opportunity to make real progress,” the president continued. “We have to come together. To rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve. To root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system. And to enact police reform in George Floyd’s name that passed the House already”, Biden said.
Source: President Biden, center, addressing Congress. Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA. Khou 11.
A CNN article addresses that this potential law will ban the no-knock warrant, which allows officers to break into homes without warning. This law will provide the witnessing police officers a duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force. While the bill is stalling in the Senate, eight senators and representatives discussed policing changes, a congressional aide confirmed to CNBC.
The negotiations continue weeks of ongoing discussions involving Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Karen Bass, D-California. According to CNBC, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Pete Stauber, R-Minn., were also set to participate.
On Juneteenth 2020 (June 19, 2020), protesters marched by a photo of Frederick Douglass, a historic abolitionist, in honor of Rayshard Brooks and other victims of racial violence. Photo Credit: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images
On the other side of the police reform debate, some people want to defund or abolish the police. Colorlines reports an abolitionist group, 8toAbolition calls reform “dangerous and irresponsible,” and writes that reformers mislead the public by offering steps “that have already been tried and failed.” Abolitionists seek a world without police or prisons. Abolitionist M Adams, co-executive director for Freedom, Inc. and a leadership team member of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) says the following, “One, the defund strategy is smart because we need to shrink those budgets [by asking], what if we put that $100 billion in education, housing, healthcare? And reduce the number of people inside of that institution who can be organized enemies against us?” For abolitionists like Adams, defunding is a technique that will hopefully lead to abolishing the police, Colorlines reports.
Adams further states the frustration in failing to reform poor policing can be partly blamed on their unions. “Police unions play a critical role here because they fight adamantly against the firing of any police officer”, said Adams. Whether there are a plethora of opinions ranging from reforming or abolishing the police, one thing everyone seems to agree on is there needs to be a change in the system.
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