1. Update
  2. Criminal Justice

Transparency and Accountability are Necessary to Protect Black Communities

By Joe D'Antonio, July 18, 2020


Black communities deal constantly with police harassment and violence. Some law enforcement agencies had made positive steps to curb these abuses, but these reforms must be coupled with increased transparency and oversight.

Law enforcement agencies must be required to publicly report instances of violence involving the police. There is currently no official database that tracks police use of force across the nation. This lack of information makes addressing police violence difficult. Some private groups have been combing through public police reports to calculate the number of people killed by police annually, but this data is incomplete.

Congress should pass legislation to completely end qualified immunity and ensure that law enforcement officers are held accountable for their actions.

Law enforcement agencies must be required to publicly report any time a police officer is involved in a killing and all cases must be reviewed to ensure that all use of force standards are followed. Though some jurisdictions publicly report this information already, national action is required to ensure a consistent standard across the nation.

In order to ensure community safety, police officers must be held accountable for their actions when they break the law. Many police departments review civilian complaints against law enforcement internally, which makes it difficult for the community to hold officers accountable. The Minneapolis Police Department’s internal review system, for instance, has received more than 2,600 complaints since 2012 and has only disciplined 12 officers. Law enforcement agencies should be required to call in independent investigators when officers are suspected of misconduct and all of the records of these investigations must be made public.

Even when law enforcement is publicly held accountable, they are held to a different standard than other people. Police officers are protected by “qualified immunity.” This protection makes it so that a police officer cannot be sued for misconduct unless the misconduct violates a “clearly defined” legal standard. Many civil rights attorneys have argued that in practice this standard makes the qualified immunity absolute, rendering it impossible to hold police officers accountable. Congress should pass legislation to completely end qualified immunity and ensure that law enforcement officers are held accountable for their actions.

The Justice in Policing Act would reform qualified immunity.

The Justice in Policing Act (HR 7120/S.3912) is before the House and Senate right now and includes several badly needed policing reform measures. The Justice in Policing Act would reform qualified immunity for certain officers to ensure that they can be held accountable for their actions. The Justice in Policing Act would also form a Law Enforcement Misconduct Registry. This national registry would track when police officers are fired for misconduct to ensure they will not be rehired but other police departments.

Urge your member of Congress to cosponsor the Justice in Policing Act and be a constant voice for racial equality.

Background FCNL's Work on Policing 

America needed police reform before March 13, 2020, when Breonna Taylor was shot in her home by police. America needed police reform before May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was killed when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. America needs police reform now.

Joe D'Antonio

  • Program Assistant, Criminal Justice and Election Integrity

Joe D’Antonio was the Program Assistant for Criminal Justice and Election Integrity for 2019-2020. His primary responsibilities included lobbying members of Congress, writing policy updates, and conducting legislative research.