U.S. congressional Democrats unveiled sweeping legislation on Monday to combat police violence and racial injustice through transformative change, two weeks after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody led to nationwide 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.
Democrats expect to bring the legislation to the House of Representatives floor by July 4.
While expecting resistance in the Republican-controlled Senate, Democrats hope to enlist the aid of public sentiment as protests against police brutality continue and polls show widespread public concern about police violence.
The legislation would not cut or abolish funding for police departments. Senior Democrats said calls for “defunding” the police from protesters and other activists, express a desire for more investment in communities. They promised that such issues would be addressed in subsequent legislation.
“We have confused having safe communities with hiring more cops … 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.
President Donald Trump and Republicans have seized on the defunding issue as a weapon against Democrats.
“LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE. The Radical Left Democrats have gone Crazy!” Trump tweeted on Monday.
After a weekend in Washington with no public events, Trump was scheduled to hold a “roundtable with law enforcement” at the White House on Monday afternoon.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy also took to Twitter to showcase Republican support for police, saying: “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 for nearly nine minutes, 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.
Among the legislation’s provisions, Democratic aides and analysts say allowing for civil suits against police could prove the most effective in curbing police brutality. But it is likely to face opposition from Republicans.