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Lawmakers Prepare To Vote On Police Reform Bill Named In Honor Of George Floyd

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 will make its way to the House floor on Wednesday for a vote after being reintroduced by House Rep. Karen Bass and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler late last month. 

The police reform bill was put up for a vote last year and passed 236 to 181 with support coming from three Republicans in addition to all Democrats. But the bill stalled in the Senate, forcing the House to reintroduce the bill this year now that Democrats have slight control.

In a statement, Bass and Nadler said the bill bans chokeholds, ends racial and religious profiling, eliminates qualified immunity for law enforcement, establishes a national standard for the operation of police departments, mandates data collection on police encounters, reroutes police funding toward “transformative community-based policing programs,” streamlines federal law to prosecute excessive force and establishes independent prosecutors for police investigations. 

“Last summer, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand change that ends police brutality, holds police officers accountable and calls for transparency in our system of policing. Due to inaction, more than 100 unarmed people have been killed or brutalized by police since then. For more than 100 years, Black communities in America have sadly been marching against police abuse and calling for the police to protect and serve them as they do others,” Bass said in a statement.

“Last year, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support but was neglected in the Senate and by then-President Trump. After we marched, we voted, and today we re-introduce the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act with renewed hope that this bill will be signed into law,” she added.

Bass noted in an interview with The Hill that the vote will come almost 30 years to the day of the police attack on Rodney King. 

The bill was introduced weeks after Floyd was seen on video being choked to death by former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin is now facing murder charges in a trial that is slated to start on Monday. 

The video kickstarted months of protests around the globe against police brutality and racism. 

Republicans created their own police bills that were far more limited in scope compared to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. Senator Tim Scott proposed the Justice Act which never gained traction among other Republicans and Senator Rand Paul introduced the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, which banned no-knock warrants. That act also never gained traction among Republican leaders and languished in the Senate. 

Bass told The Hill that Democrats were already trying to work with Republicans on the most recent version of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 in order to get some bipartisan support. 

She mentioned that Senator Cory Booker had already reached out to Scott to discuss the bill, but he has thrown cold water on any potential support he might give it, calling it “partisan.”

Democrats said that with or without Republicans, they would be pressing forward with the bill regardless.

“We have not forgotten the terrifying words ‘I can’t breathe’ spoken by George Floyd, Eric Garner, and the millions of Americans in the streets who have called out for change in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others. I worked closely with Rep. Karen Bass last Congress on the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, and am grateful to resume our partnership this year to reintroduce this critical legislation,” Nadler said in a statement. 

This legislation addresses police misconduct and excessive force while creating greater transparency within law enforcement, and grants victims more direct avenues for redress. With this legislation, the federal government demonstrates its commitment to fully reexamining law enforcement practices and building better relationships between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve,” Nadler added. 

He noted that the bill already has support from a variety of groups and notable figures including the NAACP, Gwen Carr, Samaria Rice and a bevy of celebrities. 

President Joe Biden has said he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk and Vice President Kamala Harris has also come out to support it.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty said it was a top priority for the Congressional Black Caucus and said it was integral to efforts to stop the next police shooting. 

Bass echoed her remarks, noting that no family should have to go through what the families of Floyd, Taylor and many others have gone through. 

“Never again should an unarmed individual be murdered or brutalized by someone who is supposed to serve and protect them. Never again should a family have to turn on the TV and watch the murder of their loved one over and over again. Never again should the world be subject to witnessing what we saw happen to George Floyd in the streets in Minnesota,” Bass added in her statement. 

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