BY DAVID MORGAN
U.S. congressional Democrats unveiled sweeping legislation on Monday to combat police violence and racial injustice, two weeks after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody led to widespread protests.
The 134-page bill would take numerous steps including allowing victims of misconduct to sue police for damages, ban chokeholds and require the use of body cameras by federal law enforcement officers, restrict the use of lethal force, and facilitate independent investigations of police departments that show patterns of misconduct.
“A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession that requires highly trained officers who are accountable to the public,” Representative Karen Bass, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, told a news conference.
The legislation does not call for the funding of police departments to be cut or abolished, as some protesters and activists have increasingly sought. But lawmakers called for spending priorities to change.
“We have confused having safe communities with hiring more cops on the street … when in fact the real way to achieve safe and healthy communities is to invest in these communities,” said Senator Kamala Harris, seen as a potential running-mate to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election.
Democrats vowed to bring the legislation to the House of Representatives floor in coming weeks. Its reception in the Republican-controlled Senate is unclear, but Democrats hope the protest movement and its public support will help move the bill.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted support for police and said, “Democrats want to defund you, but Republicans will never turn our backs on you.”
Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, where a police officer knelt on his neck, was the latest in a string of deaths of black men and women at the hands of police that have sparked fresh calls for reforms.