RELEASE: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) Outline New Police Reform Legislation, Say Democrats’ Bill Aims To Make Sure ‘Justice Is Real in America’

Washington, D.C. — In a new video released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) outline the Democrats’ police reform bill: the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The legislation comes in the wake of nationwide protests over the tragic racial and police-involved killings of Black Americans such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, among others. 

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are due to take up the issue of police reform in two opposing bills. Democrats argue that the JUSTICE Act, led by Republican Sen. Tim Scott (SC), lacks any real accountability on key issues that are most critical to reform, such as chokeholds, no-knock warrants, qualified immunity—which protects police officers from civil lawsuits—and making lynching a federal hate crime. Sen. Scott’s JUSTICE Act does little more than call for increases in police funding and aims to create commissions to study policing issues and create incentives to encourage changes in police practices. The bill is seen by many as ineffectual when the majority of Americans are calling for measurable reforms. 

The Justice in Policing Act, drafted in the House by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)—including CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA), Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY)—and in the Senate by Sen. Harris and Sen. Booker, aims to ensure accountability for law enforcement officers who break the law and violate civil rights.

In the video, Sen. Harris says that the measures in the Justice in Policing Act are critical to what she says will create “real justice in America,” including having pattern and practice investigations of discrimination in police agencies; having a national standard for the use of force; and conducting independent investigations. Moreover, the bill would improve practices and trainings for police; require uniformed police officers to wear functioning body cameras at all times; make lynching a federal hate crime; and limit the use of military-grade equipment by state and local police, which Sen. Booker says will “move us forward to being a more just and equal society.” 

Full remarks from Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker:  

HARRIS: Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the street to speak the names George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others in our fight to honor their lives. And to fight for justice for them and so many others.  

BOOKER: Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed in their lifetime by police officers than white men. For too long, this has been accepted as a cruel reality of being Black in America, and throughout our history, Congress has failed to act. Law enforcement should not be shielded from accountability when they violate someone’s rights.

HARRIS: Senator Cory Booker, the Congressional Black Caucus, and I announce the Justice in Policing Act, which would do a number of things, but would require accountability for police officers who break the rules and break the law. And in particular, it’s going to require pattern and practice investigations.  Patterns and practice of discrimination in law enforcement agencies. It’s going to require that we have a national standard for the use of force. It’s going to require independent investigations, all the name of making sure that justice is real in America. We have confused having safe communities with having more cops on the streets. 

BOOKER: We don’t need more cops on the street to make our communities safer. We need to invest in our communities while addressing police brutality. This bill improves practices and training to prevent tragic events like the murders of George Floyd and so many others. It would require federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras at all times. It would also make lynching a federal crime and limit the transfer of military grade equipment to state and local law enforcement. These are just a handful of solutions we’ve proposed in the bill that will move us forward to being a more just and equal society. 

HARRIS: And we know we have so much work still to do. When even the last week in the United States Senate, we could not get consensus on the need for a federal law saying that lynching is a crime, there’s still so much work to be done. After the 100 years of this issue, in this year of our lord 2020 we still can’t get this thing passed, we know the fight continues.  

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