House Democrats Pass Bill To Make It Harder For Police Officers To Kill People
Starting Monday of next week, Derek Chauvin — the officer who killed 46-year-old George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for several minutes — will stand trial in Minneapolis. This week, the House voted in favor of enacting reforms to prevent that kind of thing from happening again.
On Wednesday, the House passed Rep. Karen Bass's (D-CA) very good George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, mostly along party lines, with one Republican voting for it accidentally, and Democrats Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Jared Golden of Maine (a state where there is ranked choice voting) voting against it. You may remember Jared Golden from last week, when he voted against the COVID relief package.
Among other necessary reforms, the act would bar racial and religious profiling, reform qualified immunity for law enforcement officers (making it easier for victims to sue police officers for violating their civil rights), ban certain no-knock warrants, ban chokeholds, redirect some funding to community-based policing programs, and establish a nationwide database of police misconduct.
"Never again should an unarmed individual be murdered or brutalized by someone who is supposed to serve and protect them," Bass said in a statement. "Never again should the world be subject to witnessing what we saw happen to George Floyd in the streets in Minnesota."
Republicans, of course, thought it was a very bad idea and somehow just a way of secretly defunding all of the police departments. Probably because they love chokeholds and hate police accountability.
Via the Washington Post:
"You say this is a reform bill, and I say that's BS. Your own conference members have been advocating for the defunding of our local police officers, calling them names I cannot and will not repeat here today," said Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), who gave an impassioned floor speech about being the wife of a first responder.
Let me just say this, as someone who actually does understand what defunding police departments means and supports doing that: That's not what this bill is! It is also not about being mean to police or hurting their feelings. In fact, enacting measures like these should have the effect of decreasing anger against police departments.
If measures like these had been enacted and followed 30 years ago, after Rodney King's police beating (before then would have also been nice), or 20 years ago when police officers killed Amadou Diallo, people might not be demanding that police departments be defunded right now. They might not be calling police officers real mean names that Kat Cammack can't repeat, because police officers just might not be killing quite as many unarmed people of color. They might not think that kneeling on someone's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds was a really great idea.
The FBI changed their rules of engagement after Ruby Ridge and Waco — following congressional investigations of those incidents — because people were awfully upset about those things. If you will notice, there hasn't been anything similar since. If you will also notice, these just happened to be tragedies that befell white supremacists and Christian extremists.
People are not demanding the police be defunded because things are just fine the way they are. If Republicans really don't want police departments to get defunded, they need to support the kinds of measures and reform that would make people less likely to demand that. They're not going to get people to be okay with police brutality, and they hate the way people react to police brutality (by cruelly refusing to stand for the national anthem at sports games), so their only option here is to support reforms and changes that would make police brutality much less of a problem. Like the reforms and changes outlined in this bill.
It's like Otto Von Bismarck fighting the growing popularity of socialism and communism in Germany by creating a universal health care system in 1883, which ended up accomplishing his goal far more effectively than making socialism illegal did. You settle for the reforms you can live with in order to prevent the things you can't. (While I happen to support both defunding the police and socialism in general, it's still clear how this approach makes the most amount of sense if one does not support those things.)
The Biden administration has made its support for the bill known, and encouraged Senate members to vote for it next week.
"To make our communities safe, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are entrusted to serve and protect," the statement said. "We cannot rebuild that trust if we do not hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in police departments."
On Monday, President Biden also pushed for its passage on Twitter.
"Following Senate consideration, I hope to be able to sign into law a landmark police reform bill," he said.
That sure would be nice! Of course, whether or not that happens will depend on whether Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are willing to grace us with their votes.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse