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The Justice Act is All Studies and No Solutions

Comparing the Justice Act and the Justice in Policing Act

By Joe D'Antonio, June 25, 2020


The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others have laid bare the problems with the American policing system. Recently, Sen. Tim Scott (SC) proposed the Justice Act (S. 3985) as a response to this ongoing crisis. This bill, though, falls far short of the moment that inspired it.

The Justice Act studies problems, rather than solve them, and throws money at policing rather than require real reform. Instead of banning “no-knock warrants,” for instance, it studies their use. Police departments would still be allowed to use chokeholds, despite their deadly potential. The bill also provides $7.6 billion in additional funding to local police departments, even though they have already received more than enough. This time in American history requires bold and courageous action, not words on a sheet of paper.

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Fortunately, there is another bill in Congress that is far more comprehensive. On June 8, Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37) and Sens. Cory Booker (NJ) and Kamala Harris (CA) introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120/S. 3912). This bill represents a strong first step to addressing the American policing crisis. The Justice in Policing Act bans the use of choke holds, bans racial profiling, bans the use of “no-knock warrants” for drug offenses, and mandates other necessary policing reforms.

The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights has laid out, and FCNL has endorsed, eight policing reform priorities. Below is a chart comparing how the Justice Act and the Justice in Policing Act would address these reforms.

Leadership Conference Priorities:
In Justice in Policing Act?
In Justice Act?
National Standard on Use of Force Yes. Changes the use of force standard from reasonableness to 'unless necessary...' and requires additional warnings related to its use. No. Does not create a national standard on use of force.
Prohibit Chokeholds and Similar Restrictive Maneuvers Yes. Prohibits chokeholds and other carotid holds No. Does not prohibit chokeholds in instances where deadly force is authorized and does not address other carotid holds.
Prohibit Racial Profiling and Require Robust Data Collection on Police-Community Encounters and Law Enforcement Activities Yes. Prohibits racial profiling, although it does lack strong data collection and enforcement mechanisms. No. Does not address racial profiling and only requires minimal data collection pertaining to race for certain, limited use of force events.
Eliminate Federal Programs That Provide Military Equipment to Law Enforcement Partially. Limits the transfer of certain equipment but does not end the program entirely. No. Does not address the issue at all.
Prohibit the Use of No-Knock Warrants Partially. Prohibits no-knocks in drug cases, but does not prohibit entirely. No. Does not prohibit no-knocks; just incentivizes reporting about their use.
Change the 18 USC Sec. 242 "mens rea" requirement Yes. Changes it from "willful" to "knowingly or with reckless disregard." No. Does not address this issue at all.
Develop a National Public Misconduct Database Yes. Establishes a registry that is largely publicly available. Partially. Incentivizes reporting to the FBI's existing database on use of force and requires data sharing between agencies. Does not make that information publicly accessible, nor does it require it to include cases that are not adjudicated and result in adverse actions.
End Qualified Immunity Partially. Ends qualified immunity for local law enforcement officers but does not eliminate the doctrine. No. Does not address issue at all.
Action Alert Tell Congress: Support Justice in Policing 

America needs police reform now! In partnership with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, we are calling on Congress to swiftly pass meaningful police reform legislation.

Joe D'Antonio

  • Program Assistant, Criminal Justice and Election Integrity

Joe D’Antonio is the Program Assistant for Criminal Justice and Election Integrity. His primary responsibilities include lobbying members of Congress, writing policy updates, and conducting legislative research.