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Justice in Policing Provisions Face Uncertain Future in Senate

It was very disappointing to see the news last month that negotiations on the Justice in Policing Act (JPA)  failed to reach a deal—largely a victim of our polarized politics.

Elements of the Justice in Policing Act were included in the House’s version of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriation bill.

Even with this unfortunate development, however, progress has been made in the ongoing effort to reform policing and address state violence, which is disproportionately used against Black and brown people.

Recently, advocates saw real points of success in the House. Elements of the Justice in Policing Act were included in the chamber’s version of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriation bill—one of twelve spending bills passed by Congress annually. Some of the provisions of the Justice in Policing Act that were rolled into the House-passed CJS bill include:

  • Additional funding for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, with designated funding for pattern-or-practice investigations of police departments
  • Police certification and accreditation requirements
  • Increased training on racial profiling and implicit bias
  • Funding for a police misconduct registry
  • A prohibition on federal funding unless racial profiling is eliminated in police departments
  • A prohibition on federal funding unless duty to intervene and de-escalation tactics are implemented
  • A ban on the use of chokeholds and the use of “less than lethal force” (such as tear gas)
  • A ban of no-knock warrants

The process now moves to the Senate, where the fate of these provisions is unclear. In recent years in the appropriations process, the Senate bill is typically the version that makes it into law, making this a critical moment.

Democrats must insist that these elements be included as a part of the final CJS appropriations bill passed in December. Senators need to hear this message from their constituents, too—contact your lawmakers now.  

Maintaining Hope to Reform the 1033 Program

Elsewhere in Congress, there has been action on the 1033 program, which facilitates the transfer of weapons and other military equipment from the Pentagon to local police forces.

Last year, we saw Congress enact some small steps to roll back this harmful program—but 1033 remains operational. In September, the issue came up again when the House deliberated on the National Defense Authorization (NDAA), the annual military policy bill.

During the NDAA voting process, Reps. Hank Johnson (GA-4) and Tom McClintock (CA-4) offered their amendment to reform the 1033 program before House lawmakers, marking the first time in history that the full chamber voted to rein in this destructive and dangerous program. Unfortunately, though, the vote failed 198-231. Two Republicans voted in favor of the amendment, while 22 Democrats voted against.

This was not the result advocates hoped for, but there is still reason for optimism. For one, even holding a vote to reform 1033 is a significant step forward. And for another, there’s still a way forward: President Joe Biden could simply reissue the executive order that President Barack Obama issued in 2015, which restricted what sorts of equipment could be transferred to police departments.

We will continue to call on our leaders to end 1033, which puts weapons of war in our communities, and we remain optimistic that change is possible.

José Santos Woss

José Santos Woss

Director for Justice Reform
José is FCNL’s Director for Justice Reform. He leads FCNL’s work on criminal justice reform, election integrity, and policing.