Police

Senate Republicans Have Introduced Their Own Police Reform Bill

The bill would incentivize police to ban chokeholds and create a national use-of-force database.

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Senate Republicans unveiled their legislation today to address nationwide calls for police reform. The bill would incentivize police to ban chokeholds and create a national database on incidents where police seriously injure or kill someone.

Sen. Tim Scott (R–S.C.) introduced the bill, the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. The JUSTICE Act would, among other things, increase the penalties for filing a false police report and incentivize departments to create systems to share disciplinary records with each other to stop problem officers from being rehired. Another section, the Breonna Taylor Notification Act—named after a Louisville woman who was killed in a botched no-knock raid in March—would require states to collect and report data on the use of no-knock raids.

Most of the provisions rely on either extending or withholding federal grants to incentivize local and state police departments to participate. The bill goes neither as far as civil liberties groups and activists demand, nor as far as the Democrats' modest policing reform bill, but it contains several provisions that have bipartisan support.

For example, the legislation would make lynching a federal crime. It would also make it illegal for a federal law enforcement officer to have sex with people in custody. The so-called "law enforcement consent loophole" came to public attention after a 2018 BuzzFeed investigation about an 18-year-old New York City woman who said she was raped by two NYPD officers while handcuffed. The officers claimed it was consensual.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill this morning, Scott said the bill reflects both an acknowledgment of minority communities' anger, which erupted into nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and a rejection of the idea that police departments are systemically racist. 

"Too often we're having a discussion in this nation about, are you supporting the law enforcement community or communities of color?" Scott said. "This is a false binary choice."

"If you support America, you support restoring the confidence that communities of color have in institutions of authority," Scott continued. "If you support America, you know that the overwhelming number of officers in this nation want to do their job and go home to their families. This legislation encompasses that spirit."

Scott, the only black Republican senator, has often shared his own experiences of being pulled over by police or being asked to show his ID by Capitol Police.

Notably, the bill does not contain any provisions on qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that often shields police from liability in civil rights lawsuits. Groups across the ideological spectrum have been calling for qualified immunity to be repealed, but the White House, where Donald Trump is fighting for reelection as a "law and order" president, has indicated that it has no interest in reducing legal protections for police officers.

In the House, Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) has introduced a standalone bill to repeal qualified immunity, which has attracted numerous Democrat co-sponsors but only one Republican.

Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the former head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, said in a press release that Senate Republicans' legislation "falls painfully short in addressing longstanding issues of police misconduct and state-sanctioned violence." 

"The legislation fails to pay down the immeasurable debt to justice created by our legacy of systemic racism," she said. "While we appreciate Senator Scott's efforts, the proposal does not go nearly far enough to offer the bold, comprehensive changes necessary to achieve the transformation and increased police accountability that this moment demands."

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) said this morning that he will bring up Scott's bill for an initial procedural vote on the Senate floor next week, after voting on the confirmation of two appointees to federal circuit courts.

The bill will need 60 votes, including at least seven from Democrats, to proceed, but Senate Democrats have already signaled their displeasure with the legislation. 

"We've only had the bill for a few hours and are reviewing it," Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said on the Senate floor. "But what's clear is that the Senate Republican proposal on policing does not rise to the moment."

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  1. Hate to say it, but I like the Democrat one more. Removing QI, barring the transfer of military gear to police, and restricting no-knock raids are all really good reforms. Also, requiring all Federal Law Enforcement to have cameras. I haven’t looked closely at both bills, but so far I haven’t seen anything in the Dem bill to object to.

    I’m glad the GOP is doing something, but wish they were doing more like the Democrats in this case.

    1. Did you mean the Libertarian one?

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    2. At this point it’s clear that neither party is going to do anything. The D bill is a start but weak sauce; the R bill is an outright embarrassment.

      No one addresses the union problem; no one addresses records transparency. Nothing substantive will pass. If I were a protester I’d be right back out in the street over this.

      Every time I think I can’t be any more disappointed in my government than I already am, they outdo themselves.

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    3. Slave owners were Democrats. You’re a racist.

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    4. The Democrats’ bill is broader but it contains a number of provisions that have little or nothing to do with police reform and that act as poison pills. I believe that bill was put forward with the firm knowledge that it will never be passed. That lets the Democrats look like they’re doing something without actually being accountable for it. The Republican bill is weaker but it actually has a chance of being passed.

      Best, in my opinion, is Amash’s approach of breaking the reforms into discrete bills that can be debated and passed on the merits of the individual proposals, not through opaque grab-bags of some good and some really bad ideas.

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      1. Yep. It may take a lot more time, but it will be a way more likely to get substantial change.

        Unfortunately, you’re being far too reasonable. The angry mob and the media that’s fanning the flames for them will not be patient. They’ll demand instant change, claim whatever the D’s want to push through is comprehensive and will fix all problems for all people of color (even though things like banning all chokeholds may, in practice make things worse) then pretend to scratch their heads when we’re having this same conversation again in two years.

      2. I agree, as with most bills these days they are never meant to be passed, just virtue signaling, take for instance the Green New Deal. They did not even want the Senate to vote on it and got upset when they had one.

      3. breaking the reforms into discrete bills that can be debated and passed on the merits of the individual proposals

        This would solve a myriad of problems with legislation coming out of Washington.

  2. >>would require states to collect and report data on the use of no-knock raids

    ooh take that, no-knock raiders!

    1. Beware the all-powerful database!

  3. the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act.

    *** facepalm ***

    The JUSTICE Act would, among other things, increase the penalties for filing a false police report

    You mean, if the *police* file a false report? Surely in these days of modern time no civilian who does that should face charges, right?

  4. About the only cases where I could see the use of a no-knock warrant is a hostage or kidnap situation in which it is necessary to secure an individuals safety. Short of this situation they make no sense, particularly in light of the fact that the police don’t really seem to know how to find the right house.
    Senator Scott seems to have been assigned to find a fig leaf for the Republicans. He appears to have come up short.

    1. You don’t need a warrant in such cases.

      1. Depends (or maybe should depend) on the situation a bit, IMO. If the police see someone, gun in hand, drag someone else inside a house, no warrant necessary. Random dude from CA calls up the local Arizona PD on the non-emergency number and says there’s a hostage situation happening at some address, probably best to have someone with a law degree look over the evidence and make sure officers aren’t charging full speed over someone’s rights and maybe even their life for a hoax.

    2. Sorry, I have to disagree. The violence of a typical dynamic entry raid as executed by real police in the real world is likely to end in the police shooting the hostage.

  5. End drug prohibition which is what causes the problem.

    1. This is the main source of the problem. End the war on drugs and you probably eliminate 90+ percent of the violent interactions between police and other citizens. The state and local governments could go even further by rolling back a bunch of their terrible victimless crime laws (cigarette sales, knife possession, gun possession, etc.)

      But why would the politicians want to actually solve the problem?

      1. End the war on drugs and you probably eliminate 90+ percent of the violent interactions between police and other citizens. The state and local governments could go even further by rolling back a bunch of their terrible victimless crime laws (cigarette sales, knife possession, gun possession, etc.)

        Disagree with the former, based on the latter. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do either one. Just that we shouldn’t declare the George Floyd or Rayshad Brooks problem ‘solved’ or ’90+% solved’ when drugs, as generally considered in the War On Drugs, had nothing to do with either arrest.

      2. Yes, this is true. The whole reasons feel like they are above the law is that we as a society have created this law that arbitrarily persecutes people for vice and other victimless crimes. When there is not a victim, typically the “Privileged” never have anyone who will hold them to account. So you have Cops who flagrantly violate the law, and get away with it (along with the rich and elite) and the poor regularly judged and found wanting for smoking cigarettes or doing drugs.

        Such a system by its construction is a horrible way to ensure that police see themselves as a special class, while also giving them the power to use force against the unprivileged.

    2. Great idea… it’ll never happen.

      We can’t even get enough people to agree that the cops shouldn’t have super powers which make them qualified to abuse your civil rights.

  6. So the Senate has voted on a continuation of the riots.

    Good to know.

    This will surely sway the public that enough is being done so the police will look like peace officers instead violent thugs when they will eventually have to put the riots down.

  7. I’m not at all pleased by the portion of the bill making lynching a federal crime; under the dual-sovereigns doctrine, this would allow someone who’d been found not guilty of murder under state law to be prosecuted a second time on federal charges. Whatever the Supremes might’ve said, this seems like a violation of the spirit of the double-jeopardy clause.
    Admittedly, a measure like this might be necessary were there good evidence that a significant number of persons obviously guilty of lynching were being casually acquitted on state charges, as was the case during the KKK’s heyday. But absent such evidence, the whole purpose of this seems to be giving prosecutors two bites at the apple—especially in cases where there’s lots of political pressure to get a conviction.

    1. I’m pretty sure any case they’re thinking of would also already covered under the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act”. Other than that, I’m not sure what would turn it into a federal crime.

  8. The bill would incentivize police to ban chokeholds and create a national database on incidents where police seriously injure or kill someone.

    Ooh. A national database! Those always work so well! I’m sure we won’t have any problems with under-reporting or departments completely ignoring the database when making hiring decisions. Does it have teeth to punish departments for failing to report and for punishing individuals who end up on the list?

  9. With little to no action against police oppression and a lot of data collection, Scott’s bill seems a lot more like bureaucrat (Yes, police are just bureaucrats with clubs.) employment stimulus than it does police reform.

    “I want the government to shrink in the wash. I want it both cleaner and smaller, please.” ~ PJ O’Rourke

  10. I just want something passed that will placate the protesters so they go back inside and stop spreading virus. Otherwise we should accept that to get enough votes to pass, the eventual bill, if there is one, will likely give nobody the tinglies in their happy place. Democracy is a semi-flaccid sweaty hump with the last person at the bar. You go home feeling dirty, but at least someone touched your dick. And it’s better than the alternatives.

    But we’re probably not getting anything because there is too much stubbornness on the part of both BLMers and police (who don’t think they did anything wrong) and total governing incompetence by Republicans.

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    2. Those Republicans in the cities where the cops are misbehaving and the riots are going on are certainly incompetent

      1. I demand a higher quality of bullshit. Most cities are run by Democrats. Are you seriously trying to argue that blacks are better off getting caught in Bumfuck, Mississippi? But why don’t you ask any random cop what his politics are. It’s not a hotbed of socialists. You idiot.

        1. I’m agreeing with you.
          The Republicans who allow their cities and police forces to be controlled by Democrats and descend into abuse, rioting, and looting are super incompetent

        2. Apart from their unflinching devotion to the union and government, you mean, right, dumbass?

  11. I’m still looking for an answer on how cops are supposed to deal with an arrestee fighting them then running away.
    One person mentioned “cordon off the area” but was unable to provide any details beyond the soundbite.
    Thoughts?

    1. Fair play to the guy who outran the cops. They can try to track him down but might not bother if he did only a minor crime like sleeping one off in a parking lot. Better than shooting him in the back. Also, cops could try not being so fat and out of shape.

      1. Ok, that’s sort of a thought

      2. Also, cops could try not being so fat and out of shape.

        You’re projecting (over your beltline) again!

  12. For example, the legislation would make lynching a federal crime.

    Phew. I was afraid they wouldn’t get yet another chance to try presumably innocent people twice over the same accusation.

    1. Are they using the mass of people in hoods and robes hanging someone in the woods in the dark definition or an angry mob of people wearing masks hauling a shopkeeper out of his store and shooting him definition?

  13. The bill does not contain any provisions on qualified immunity electrician waco tx

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