This Week in Policing Reform: Utah Outlaws Kneeling on Suspects’ Necks, Memphis P.D. Ends No-Knock Raids
You might have noticed that there’s a lot of criminal justice news right now. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming to keep track of what’s going on at the local, state, and federal levels. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the most significant policing reforms that passed (or failed) over the last week.
- Last night the Democrat-led House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by a largely party-line vote. The bill would end qualified immunity—a legal doctrine that shields cops from liability in civil rights lawsuits—establish a national registry for police misconduct, ban police chokeholds and no-knock raids in some circumstances, and limit the transfer of military equipment to state and local police departments. It would also require federal law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and to have dashboard cameras installed in their vehicles. However, Republicans and the White House say ending qualified immunity is a deal-breaker.
- Senate Republicans’ more modest policing reform bill, the JUSTICE Act, introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R–S.C.), is dead in the water after Democrats blocked debate on it. Democrats and civil liberties groups oppose the bill, saying it doesn’t go nearly far enough to address systemic problems in American policing. Republicans say the bill strikes a balance between addressing needed reforms and supporting police as an institution.
- Sen. Mike Braun (R–Ind.), bucking the rest of his party, introduced the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act, which would not end the legal doctrine of qualified immunity, but it would come close.
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reintroduced the FAIR Act today, which would significantly reform federal civil asset forfeiture.
State-level Package Bills
- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a sweeping police reform bill into law. The new laws will, among other provisions, require officers to wear body cameras and record police-initiated interactions with the public; create a database of police use-of-force incidents; forbid officers from firing less-than-lethal projectiles at someone’s head, pelvis, or back, and bars cops from firing indiscriminately into crowds; and strip police officers of qualified immunity in civil court if they are sued for violating people’s rights or for failing to intervene when they witness another officer violating a person’s rights.
- Police reform legislation collapsed in the Minnesota legislature amid a partisan standoff between the Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate, and lawmakers left the special session with nothing to show for their work. Republican senate majority leader Paul Gazelka told reporters the legislature is “weeks and weeks away from the possibility of doing something with criminal justice reform.”
- Hopes of police reform also look dim in Georgia, where Democrats have
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