How This Summer Changed—and Failed To Change—American Policing
In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in May, activists and criminal justice reform advocates suddenly had momentum and mainstream attention on previously niche issues like qualified immunity, no-knock warrants, and public access to police misconduct records.
State lawmakers responded to these nationwide demands for reform by introducing hundreds of bills. But how much of that momentum translated into concrete changes in American policing?
A database created by the lobbying firm MultiState and shared with Reason shows that, of the 283 policing reform bills introduced since May that the firm has tracked, 35 have passed.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a nonpartisan association of sitting state legislators, maintains a wider database of policing bills introduced since the death of George Floyd. Of the 653 bills tracked by the NCSL, 57 have passed.
“We’ve seen so much activity on policing reform at the state level since the end of May,” Chris Mattox, a senior policy analyst at MultiState, says, “even in a year when many states’ legislative sessions were interrupted or cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given what we’ve seen so far, I expect to see a lot more legislation coming out of the statehouses when they reconvene next year.”
Those databases give a fairly comprehensive view of what happened in summer/early fall 2020, but not the whole picture.
This month, Virginia passed legislation banning no-knock raids, barring police from initiating searches during traffic stops if they allegedly smell marijuana, expanding civilian oversight of police departments, and making it easier to decertify officers found guilty of crimes or other misconduct.
California passed measures to ban chokeholds, require the state attorney general to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians, and increase oversight of county sheriffs. However, police unions managed to kill other proposals, such as one that would have given the state a way to decertify police officers. California currently has no power to permanently strip an officer’s badge, allowing problem cops to bounce from department to department.
The New York legislature repealed a law that made police misconduct records in the state totally secret, a stinging defeat for police unions that had successfully defended and expanded the law for four decades.
Similarly, Hawaii passed a bill in July that will make suspensions and firings of police officers public record. The new law also allows the state’s law enforcement standards board to revoke officer certifications.
The Minnesota legislature passed a compromise bill that bans chokeholds and warrior-style training for police officers and creates a new office to investigate police killings and allegations of sexual assault committed by police.
New Mexico will no
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