1. Background
  2. Criminal Justice

Bill Analysis: Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120/S. 3912)

By José Santos Woss, November 9, 2020


The list of people killed by police is tragically long. Fortunately, Congress has introduced meaningful legislation to address this serious loss of life. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120), introduced by Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), passed the House on June 25, 2020 by a bipartisan vote of 236-181. The Senate companion bill, S. 3912, was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (NJ) and Kamala Harris (CA) and currently has 36 co-sponsors.

These bills seek to introduce more accountability and restraint to police departments nationwide and provide for additional training for law enforcement. Much of the accountability and restraint is achieved through requirements placed on the 18,000 jurisdictions that receive federal grants. Under these bills, the grants would be conditioned on ensuring that certain policy changes are made.

Background

Approximately 1,000 people are killed by the police every year nationwide. These sons and daughters and mothers and fathers are often taken from our communities with impunity and little accountability, and their faces are largely Black and brown.

These bills seek to introduce more accountability and restraint to police departments nationwide.

Many law enforcement agencies have different use of force standards and training. Combine that with institutional racism, and the effect is disastrous. Recent data shows that in the United States, there are 46.6 deaths at the hands of police per ten million people. We rank in between Iraq, at 45.1 police fatalities per ten million, and the Congo, with 47.8 fatalities per ten million. The numbers are clear: We need to federally reform policing in a major way.

FCNL's Perspective

Friends have called us to work on policing issues. Our legislative statement, crafted by Quakers across the country, states that “legitimate needs for safety and security can never excuse such excesses as racial profiling and the undue use of force. Instead, we support community-oriented law enforcement practices, emphasizing de-escalation techniques, which can lead to policing that serves all community members equitably.”

What's in the Bills?

The Justice in Policing Act (JPA) takes the following steps:

  • Bans racial and religious profiling in policing;
  • Incentivizes de-escalation techniques and creates a “necessary” standard for use of force where all other modes of engagement must be exhausted prior to the use of lethal force;
  • Creates more accountability for police by amending Section 242 of title 18, United States Code to a “knowingly or recklessly” standard in civil cases. This makes the standard to file a suit against a police officer more reasonable;
  • Fosters more accountability by creating a police misconduct registry. This way police officers fired for gross negligence or misconduct can’t just find employment in a neighboring town or municipality;
  • Bans the use of chokeholds;
  • Bans the use of “no-knock” warrants. A no-knock warrant was used to break into a home and kill Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky;
  • Reforms qualified immunity; and
  • Ends the militarization of police departments.

Time for Action

Communities across the country are demanding action. Large comprehensive bills such as the Justice in Policing Act are iterative efforts that often stretch across multiple sessions of Congress before getting passed. We need to lay the groundwork for justice now.

Contact your members of Congress and urge them to advocate for and co-sponsor the Justice in Policing Act.

José Santos Woss

  • Legislative Manager, Criminal Justice and Election Integrity

José is the Legislative Manager for Criminal Justice and Election Integrity. He leads FCNL’s work on criminal justice reform, election integrity, and policing. He helps to lead the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition, an alliance of more than 40 national faith groups advocating to end mass incarceration.