Police

How This Summer Changed—and Failed To Change—American Policing

Lawmakers introduced hundreds of policing bills in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. A few dozen passed.

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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.

As part of a larger reform package, Colorado eliminated qualified immunity for police, a disgraceful legal doctrine that frequently shields officers from liability in civil rights lawsuits.

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 now require every police officer in the state to wear a body camera.

However, civil liberties and criminal justice advocates didn't see many of their highest priorities pass, let alone make it into bills.

"Overwhelmingly, the legislation we saw introduced in the wake of George Floyd's murder was honestly pretty weak," says Paige Fernandez, policing policy adviser at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Fernandez says most of the bills that were introduced were "backstop bills" that focused on what happens after police violence has occurred, rather than stopping them from happening in the first place.

One of the more common provisions passed by state legislatures was restricting police from using chokeholds like the kind that killed George Floyd. Delaware, for instance, created a new crime, "aggravated strangulation," that applies to police officers. Utah and Iowa also restricted the use of chokeholds. The latter was one of the few bills introduced by a Republican. The vast majority of bills were introduced by Democrats.

The Department of Justice also announced this week that restricting chokeholds would be one of the certification requirements for police departments under a White House executive order issued in June.

The MultiState and NCSL databases do not include internal policy changes at police departments: The Omaha Police Department and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced changes to their use-of-force policies to limit neck restraints. The Memphis Police Department announced it would no longer execute no-knock search warrants. 

City councils were active as well. In San Francisco, police will no longer respond to calls involving non-criminal matters. Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was killed by police, banned the use of no-knock warrants. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued executive orders in June requiring police to use de-escalation tactics before using force, and requiring officers to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force. In Wisconsin, the Madison City Council voted to create a civilian review board and an independent auditor to oversee its police department.

Cities and school boards also wrestled with proposals to eliminate or shrink the presence of police in schools, which civil liberties groups have long argued contribute to the so-called school-to-prison pipeline. Several major cities—Minneapolis, Portland, Denver, Seattle, Oakland—eliminated school resource officer programs, while Chicago slashed its school police budget by more than half. 

But there was backlash as well. The Georgia legislature, for instance, passed a "peace officers bill of rights" that increased procedural protections for police officers. The legislation, opposed by civil liberties groups, seals records of unfounded complaints against officers and substantiated complaints that do not result in discipline. It also increases procedural protections for officers under investigation and creates a new crime for attacks against police or law enforcement property.

In September, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced legislation to increase penalties for crimes associated with protests and to block state funding to cities that cut police department budgets.

"The concern that I have, and I think a lot of advocates in policing reform work have," Fernandez says, "is that in the 2021 legislative session, a lot of legislatures will try to absolve themselves of responsibility and say, 'Look, we passed this package in emergency session in the summer of 2020 following the murder, George Floyd, we did our part.' But they didn't, and they have a long way to go."

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  1. If BLM could just keep their yaps shut reform might have a chance.

    1. The schwartze goyim need to understand that black lives won’t matter until #JewishLivesMatter!

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              1. Police reform????

                We need more police brutality - not less. Police are so tolerant, they just stand there and let rioters destroy businesses, store fronts, and beat each other in the street. And they are too afraid to arrest anyone, or even shove someone these days. And pot smoking losers like the libertarian left (however the F you reconcile that) such as the writers here at reason, are busy complaining about their closet leftist philosophies while pretending to be libertarian.

                So if anything, we need to allow police to shoot looters again. Holding a molotov cocktail? Time for a dirt nap. Wearing black block cracking skulls with soup cans? Dirt nap.

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      2. Tu on a khazer a Shtreimel vet er en rav?

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    2. Like the TEA Party, it was the kernel of a really good idea that got hijacked and strangled in its sleep.

      1. Was it?
        It was always based on lies and founded by proud marxists.

        1. Regardless, it was quickly coopted into a referendum on Trump, who has had nothing to do with running large cities or their police for 40 years.

          If Trump is doing anything, it was kicking the NY Democrats in the nuts, hard, by spoiling their presidency, for tangling with him, no doubt, with their red tape on all his properties, requiring him to “clear it up” so the politicians backed away. Government as intended…by government.

    3. Blmantifa doesn’t want reform, they want totalitarian leftism.
      And Reason is happy supporting them in their pursuit, so long as they mouth pleasing bullshit

    4. That’s USA President Trump didn’t tell his supporters to Target and Run Bidens us and those following it off the Road! That’s just Plain Ridiculous. He would not endanger his campaign like that or risk being arrested for doing such a thing. The ones who did it were being A-holes on their own. Either way, that was Wrong to Do That……Click For Full Detail.

  2. No reform is perfect. Thus we won’t get reform because no one will accept less than perfect. We can’t even make moves in the right direction because no move will be a total move.

  3. 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.

    Unfortuantely, these kinds of ‘bundled’ numbers don’t tell us anything about the fitness or scope of the laws which passed vs. those that didn’t. This kind of assumes that there were 283 Certified Gold attempts to Make The World Better, but only 35 were successful.

    Even of the 35, we don’t know what the effects will be. For instance, it’s… disingenuous to claim that Colorado “eliminated” qualified immunity. They did not do any such thing. Full stop. Qualified Immunity is still the federal precedent of the land. What Colorado did was to allow officers to be sued directly in STATE court. It also somehow doesn’t apply to state police.

    In addition, my prediction about ‘malpractice insurance’ was pretty much right the fuck on track:

    Defenders of qualified immunity often claim that it’s necessary to protect officers from financial ruin. To assuage those concerns, the Act will require law enforcement agencies to indemnify their officers, meaning that they won’t have to worry about being on the hook for potentially expensive legal bills.

    So really, this bill looks entirely symbolic, merely a shuffling of procedural deckchairs.

    1. “What Colorado did was to allow officers to be sued directly in STATE court. It also somehow doesn’t apply to state police.”

      The Colorado law also explicitly rejects/prohibits the creation of any kind of immunity by state courts.

      ” To assuage those concerns, the Act will require law enforcement agencies to indemnify their officers, meaning that they won’t have to worry about being on the hook for potentially expensive legal bills.”

      My understanding is that nearly all LEAs already do this in the few federal suits that manage to get past QI.

      IIRC: The Colorado act only requires indemnification in cases where the officer was acting in accordance with training and policy.

  4. BML, the virus and they’ve been putting a new sewer line in my town and my road has been torn up since June as is my driveway. I’m just waiting for the next thing to happen.

    1. Don’t worry, it’s looming on the event horizon.

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  5. Rand Paul introduced the Breona Taylor act to help prevent similar police shootings. BLM morons surrounded him and told him to “say her name” when he was their biggest ally in Congress on that issue.

    LeBron James urged minorities to vote to stop systemic racism. He forgot to tell them to stop voting for the Democrats who have mismanaged all those cities for several decades.

    1. Bingo and it tells you what they really want has nothing to do with actual black lives mattering.

    2. several decades

      Let’s expand on your point that all of the rioting cities have been run by Democrats since forever:

      Chicago hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 89 years.
      San Francisco hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 64 years.
      Philadelphia hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 68 years.
      Portland hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 63 years.
      Detroit hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 58 years.
      Seattle hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 51 years.
      DC hasn’t had a Republican mayor ever.
      Baltimore hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 73 years.
      Milwaukee hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 110 years.
      Minneapolis hasn’t had a Republican mayor in 47 years.

      And yet somehow it’s Trump’s fault that their police are trained to be bastards. I wonder when America’s blacks will quit falling for it?

      1. I wonder when America’s blacks will quit falling for it?
        When they figure out that city police departments are run by city government, so if their city council has been promising to reform the police since the “peaceful demonstrations” of 1968, and nothing has changed, their problem isn’t the police.

    3. Rand Paul is one of the small handful of national politicians to openly challenge the war/surveillance/social-control State with legislative proposals. A few years ago they sent a violent stooge to assault from behind resulting in broken ribs. This recent assault by deep-state-tool bLM is another threat and warning directed at Paul.

  6. nothing was going to happen because the Elite like their Police

    Biden was a crook all summer. Still is.

  7. Repeal all legislation that criminalizes acts that do not harm the life, liberty or property of another person.

    1. You live in a fantasy land. Get help or change your meds at least.

      1. Substantive and thoughtful as usual.

        1. Platitudes aren’t substantive dummy.

      2. No, that’s actually a laudable goal. We’ll still disagree about the specifics, but I can get behind that kind of mindset reform for criminal justice.

        1. If you or Ken said it I would agree, but not when it comes from this Sarcasmic.

          1. Very mature of you.

    2. Hmmm.

      Ok, name one law that fall within those parameters.

      1. There are plenty of victimless crimes on the books. Start with the war on drug users.

      2. Thought crime laws.

        Obamacare.

        Census criminal penalty.

        Stalking laws.

        Words are violence laws.

        ….

        1. I agree with all that list except stalking. It can cause harm.

  8. In other news the cop who got shot in that botched raid that killed that nurse lady is not only claiming QI, but he’s suing the boyfriend who shot him in civil court. These fucking pigs have no shame.

    1. Why shouldn’t he sue? From his point of view, they had a valid search warrant, amended it on scene to be less onerous upon the occupants, knocked on the door, announced they were cops, and still got shot. You don’t get to shoot at cops executing a valid search warrant.

      Now, whether Walker knew or not that the guys busting in his door were cops, is an interesting question. But it’s likely a question of fact that a jury gets to decide.

      1. He was on the phone with 911 when the cops broke in. Would he have done that if he knew they were police?

        The cop wants immunity from a civil suit while suing a civilian in the same court. That’s not totally dickish to you?

        So you want to start a trend of government employees taking the people they serve to court for “mental anguish?” Before long every special ed teacher in the country will be a millionaire.

        1. When the people they serve inflict an injury upon them, sure. There are reasons why in your example, a special ed teacher generally doesn’t sue his pupils when they injure him: Comp takes care of it, kid is judgment proof, etc… Make it a bus driver though, and why not? Government employees don’t put a “Kick Me,” sign on their back when they enter government service.

          IIED is a weird tort to allege though, given the facts we know, rather than the seemingly obvious tort of battery. Maybe it’s usually pled that way in Kentucky?

          1. I dunno. Given how dishonest most police officers are, how they disregard our rights, and how they abuse asset forfeiture, I really don’t want to give the fuckers another means of extracting money from the people. Especially when they themselves are generally the ones who initiate violence. People are routinely charged with assaulting cops for busting up the guy’s fist with their face. You want to allow civil suits on top of that? Every tool available to them will be abused. They don’t need another.

            1. Whenever someone says most to describe any diverse group you know they have put narrative in front of critical thinking. Yes some cops are bad. Yes justice reform is necessary, but the condemn all cops makes any reform less likely to win broad support for reform.

              1. If good cops existed they would do something about bad cops. Especially if good cops were the majority. No, the only people they serve and protect are their own.

          2. I can totally see a civil suit becoming SOP for when a cop is injured on the job. Meanwhile they are immune. They can rob someone, kill their dog, and then sue them for pain and suffering for that knuckle that they busted on the guy’s skull.

            No thanks.

        2. The cop wants immunity from a civil suit while suing a civilian in the same court. That’s not totally dickish to you?

          He gets sued and he counter sues. Where is the problem?

          So you want to start a trend of government employees taking the people they serve to court for “mental anguish?” Before long every special ed teacher in the country will be a millionaire.

          Until voters shut down the public education system. Not a bad outcome.

  9. 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.

    This is an astoundingly good percentage (9%). Are you kidding me? With the slow-assed pace that government does anything these days? The change is happening most quickly where changes are needed the most.

    1. And quality is better than quantity. I would like a review of what was in the bills passed and those not passed. Come on Reason is supposed to be better than this.

  10. It takes a while to learn how to shoot a leg or a gun out of someone’s hand.

    1. After 2 to the body and 1 to the head, you can shoot them in the leg pretty easily but seems like a waste if ammo at that point.

      1. How long have those expensive super-expanding rounds been in the gun? May as well empty it and buy some fresh ammo.

        1. Bullet setback is actually a thing. Usually for people constantly loading and unloading their handguns, which I don’t get—just leave it loaded, already—but people do it.

          If it sets back enough, and it’s a high pressure cartridge, and the chamber isn’t as supported as it could be, you might have a problem. Never happened to me, or anyone I know though.

  11. Fernandez says most of the bills that were introduced were “backstop bills” that focused on what happens after police violence has occurred, rather than stopping them from happening in the first place.

    Let’s not be so dismissive of “backstop” bills. These are the types of bills that take on the incentives that either encourage or discourage bad behavior in cops. Weaken QI and weaken union protection, there will be less incentive to behave badly, and more incentive for good cops to inform on the bad ones. This reform takes longer to have a measurable effect, but it would have a more broad ranging effect than say, banning chokeholds, which only covers one type of engagement.

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  14. When the protests turned into riots it was over.

    Heck even the gangsters maintain a certain amount of discipline and organization.

  15. Progress for victimized minority groups is directly proportional to the sympathy they receive, which is inversely proportional to how violent and vengeful they are.

    Maybe we can see progress when social justice warriors stop acting like social vengeance warriors. In the mean time, they’ve probably set the movement back a couple of decades at least.

  16. Can reason get this any more backwards? Gangs of niggers are roaming the streets, smashing windows and throwing shit. They are raping Men, Women and Children. They are ass raping girls as young as 4. I personally saw a nigger rape five white women at once. I knew George Floyd. He was a rapist. I saw him rape 10 women. These are animals. Here is what trump must do: federalize and militarize the police. Have police patrolling the streets with 6 full magazines and m4 automatic rifles. Anyone who picks up a brick gets shot in the head. Law and order will reign.

    1. ^ Fake account by a leftist agitator trying to smear their opponents.

    2. Is that you, Kamala…..?????????

    3. I see we’re not using the Larkerson handle today.

      Beat it back to the Klan meeting, Fed.

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  19. There is no such thing as “American policing”; policing is a state and local matter. Most cities and towns are perfectly happy with how their police operates. Bad policing is a problem of large, Democrat-run cities.

  20. George Floyd wasn’t killed by police… he died from an overdose of fentanyl… and it will get ugly when a jury fails to convict, or when a judge finally calls a stop to the cop’s trial(s).

  21. “One of the more common provisions passed by state legislatures was restricting police from using chokeholds like the kind that killed George Floyd.”
    So they outlawed overdosing with Fentanyl? Good policy.

    1. The carotid restraint used against Floyd wasn’t a “chokehold”, not that it should be used.

      The problem for the former officer’ Chauvin is that there’s video of Floyd complaining he can’t breathe… coincidental with the knee against his carotid on one side… and not much curiosity over the number of times Floyd had the same complaint before the carotid hold was used, or the number of large breaths Floyd was able to take, while on the ground being restrained, waiting for the EMTs to arrive.

  22. George Floyd killed himself through drug use. End of story.

    1. Well, Floyd killed himself when he answered falsely that he wasn’t under the influence. Had he had the presence of mind to say, yes, I may have taken an overdose of an opiate… and the police would have expedited the arrival of the only treatment that would keep him alive.

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