In Congress

Democrats pro­pose sweep­ing po­lice over­haul.

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY LISA MASCARO

WASH­ING­TON — Democrats pro­posed a far-reach­ing over­haul of po­lice pro­ce­dures and ac­count­abil­ity on Mon­day, a sweep­ing leg­isla­tive re­sponse to the mass protests de­nounc­ing the deaths of black Amer­i­cans at the hands of law en­force­ment.

The po­lit­i­cal out­look is deeply un­cer­tain for the leg­is­la­tion in an es­pe­cially po­lar­ized elec­tion year. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is stak­ing out a tough “law and or­der” ap­proach in the face of the out­pour­ing of demon­stra­tions and de­mands to reimag­ine polic­ing in Amer­ica.

“We can­not set­tle for any­thing less than trans­for­ma­tive struc­tural change,” said House Speaker Nancy

Pelosi, D-Calif., cit­ing the na­tion’s his­tory of slav­ery.

Be­fore un­veil­ing the pack­age, House and Se­nate Democrats held a mo­ment of si­lence at the Capi­tol’s Eman­ci­pa­tion Hall, read­ing the names of Ge­orge Floyd and many oth­ers killed dur­ing in­ter­ac­tions with po­lice. They knelt for 8 min­utes and 46 sec­onds — now a sym­bol of po­lice bru­tal­ity and vi­o­lence — the length of time pros­e­cu­tors say Floyd was pinned un­der a white po­lice of­fi­cer’s knee be­fore he died.

Trump, who met with law en­force­ment of­fi­cials at the White House, char­ac­ter­ized Democrats as hav­ing “gone CRAZY!”

As ac­tivists call for restruc­tur­ing po­lice de­part­ments and even to “de­fund the po­lice,” the pres­i­dent tweeted, “LAW & OR­DER, NOT DE­FUND AND ABOL­ISH THE PO­LICE.” He de­clared later, “We won’t be dis­man­tling our po­lice.”

Demo­cratic lead­ers pushed back, say­ing their pro­posal would not elim­i­nate po­lice de­part­ments — a de­ci­sion for cities and states — but es­tab­lish new stan­dards and over­sight.

The Jus­tice in Polic­ing Act, the most

am­bi­tious law en­force­ment re­forms from Congress in years, con­fronts sev­eral as­pects of polic­ing that have come un­der strong crit­i­cism, es­pe­cially as more and more po­lice vi­o­lence is cap­tured on cell­phone video and shared widely across the na­tion and the world.

The pack­age would limit le­gal pro­tec­tions for po­lice, cre­ate a na­tional data­base of ex­ces­sive­force in­ci­dents and ban po­lice choke­holds, among other changes.

It would re­vise the fed­eral crim­i­nal po­lice mis­con­duct statute to make it eas­ier to pros­e­cute of­fi­cers who are in­volved in “reck­less” mis­con­duct and would change “qual­i­fied im­mu­nity” pro­tec­tions to more broadly en­able dam­age claims against po­lice in law­suits.

The leg­is­la­tion would ban racial pro­fil­ing, boost re­quire­ments for po­lice body cam­eras and limit the trans­fer of mil­i­tary equip­ment to lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions.

Over­all, the bill seeks to pro­vide greater trans­parency of po­lice be­hav­ior in sev­eral ways. For one, it would grant sub­poena power to the Jus­tice Depart­ment to con­duct “pat­tern and prac­tice” in­ves­ti­ga­tions of po­ten­tial mis­con­duct and help states con­duct in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

And it would cre­ate a “Na­tional

Po­lice Mis­con­duct Registry,” a data­base to try to pre­vent of­fi­cers from trans­fer­ring from one depart­ment to another with past mis­con­duct un­de­tected, the draft says. A long-sought fed­eral anti-lynch­ing bill is in­cluded.

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler, D-N.Y., a co-author with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Demo­cratic se­na­tors, will hold a hear­ing on the leg­is­la­tion Wed­nes­day.

“The world is wit­ness­ing the birth of a new move­ment in this coun­try,” said Bass, chair­woman of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, which is leading the House ef­fort.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., whose Louisville

home­town faces un­rest af­ter the po­lice shoot­ing of Bre­onna Tay­lor in her home, said he would take a look at po­ten­tial Se­nate leg­is­la­tion.

Sen. Lind­sey Graham, R-S.C., chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, has said his panel plans a hear­ing to re­view use of force and other is­sues. And Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has said he would like to re­view the Democrats’ pack­age.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who marched in sup­port of Floyd in Houston, wrote an op-ed Mon­day about how his own black fa­ther in­structed him as a teen driver to re­spond if he was pulled over by the po­lice. Hurd of­fered his own pro­pos­als for changes in po­lice prac­tices.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (cen­ter left) and other mem­bers of Congress knelt to ob­serve a mo­ment of si­lence at the Capi­tol’s Eman­ci­pa­tion Hall on Mon­day.

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