Here’s what’s in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — named after the 46-year-old black man killed by Minneapolis police in 2020 — passed the Democratic-controlled House in March 2021. But negotiations broke down in the Senate soon after. time after. Faced with failed police reform efforts, President Biden signed an executive order last year with some initiatives similar to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. However, Biden’s order only applies to federal law enforcement agencies, and executive orders can be overridden by future presidents.
Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, died Jan. 10, three days after being beaten, kicked and pepper sprayed by five Memphis police officers. The videos released last week have sparked new demands for action on police reform, including from Biden, who said Monday that Congress should pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act “now.”
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It has been more than a year since the bill passed Congress. Here is some of what the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 would do:
Limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to police departments
The bill would limit the transfer of military assets, such as drones, to local and state law enforcement.
Require officers to undergo training when another uses excessive force
Police officers would receive guidance on racial profiling, implicit bias and intervention.
Increase the use of body cameras
All federal agents will be required to wear body cameras, and all marked federal police vehicles will be required to use dash cams. The resulting footage must be released on demand under the bill. Federal funding would also be available to ensure local and state law enforcement use body cameras, but the release of local and state footage would be left to state law.
Create a national database for allegations of officer misconduct
The bill would create a National Police Misconduct Registry to compile data on complaints and police misconduct records at the federal, state and local levels. Law enforcement agencies will have the ability to research an officer’s background before hiring them, which can prevent officers fired for misconduct from being hired by other agencies.
Prohibit no-knock warrants and chokeholds, in certain cases
No-knock warrants allow the police to enter a premises without knocking or announcing their presence. Louisville police killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor after raiding her home with a no-knock warrant. The practice would be banned in federal drug cases; warrants would still be allowed in other scenarios.
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The use of chokeholds has also come under greater scrutiny since Floyd’s death, after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than several minutes. Under the bill, chokeholds would be banned federally.
The bill calls on state and local governments to pass similar laws, and those that fail to do so would lose access to federal funding.
Restrict the use of qualified immunity
This provision would make it easier to charge offending police officers.
Under qualified immunity, police officers are protected from individual liability. This makes it almost impossible to prosecute police officers for violating someone’s civil rights. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act sought to bar officers from qualified immunity, but it was a key sticking point during bipartisan Senate negotiations last year. Most Republicans argued that allowing lawsuits against police officers would cause them to adopt less effective tactics.
The bill also lowers the standard of criminal intent — from “wilful” to knowledge or recklessness — for convicting an officer in a federal prosecution.