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House Democrats unveiled the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 today, proposing reforms to combat racial violence by police. Prior to the press conference, congressional Democrats had a moment of silence for 8 minutes 46 seconds in recognition of George Floyd. All were kneeling and wearing Kente cloth which is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips. It is an Akan royal and sacred cloth. Kente academic stoles are often used by African Americans as a symbol of ethnic pride. Senator Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and others held a press conference after the demonstration to present the bill.

Nancy Pelosi in her statement “True justice can only be achieved with comprehensive action” she added, “We cannot accept anything but fundamental structural change”.

The bill calls for the elimination of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine in United States federal law that shields government officials from being held personally liable for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity unless their actions violated “clearly established” federal law or constitutional rights. It is intended to protect officials who “make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions”, extending to “all [officials] but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law”. Qualified immunity applies only to government officials in civil litigation, and does not protect the government itself from suits arising from officials’ actions.

The bill also includes de-escalation training for police officers. Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), House Judiciary Committee was on Fox News after the announcement and said “I have presented legislation in Arizona multiple times on that very issue of de-escalation and not a single Democrat voted to support the legislation”. He added, “I’m not sure that Congress is the best place to provide a unique situation with a one size fits all solution”.

The bill also proposes to scale back on law enforcement equipment. Pelosi stated the bill will “Demilitarize the police by limiting the transfer of military weaponry to state and local police departments”. She added, “We will combat police brutality by requiring body and dashboard cameras, banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants in drug cases and end racial profiling.” The bill also proposes to make lynching a federal hate crime.

Biggs addressed this as well saying “You’re going to allow the police to be disadvantaged again like we saw in the ’70s when we had high crime rates because they didn’t have the equipment that they needed, they didn’t have the training that they needed”. He added, “So if you need more training, defunding your police department will mean you will have less training and less support for the police officers which again is going to lead towards high crime rates and less security in those places”.

Police Departments across the country are typically not funded by Congress. They are funded through State and local resources. Several Mayors including Los Angeles and New York City have announced they will be shifting funding and resources from their police departments to other programs while in Minneapolis, 9 members of their city council vowed yesterday to defund and disband their police department entirely and replace it with a new system of public safety.

President Trump tweeted shortly after the press conference in response: