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Pingree Cosponsors Most Significant Federal Police Reform Package in Generations

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 Would Ban Chokeholds, Address Qualified Immunity, Make Lynching a Federal Hate Crime

Washington, June 8, 2020

Amid nationwide protests of police brutality toward Black Americans, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today announced her original co-sponsorship of the bicameral Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which would hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct and increase transparency in policing.

“While policing happens at the local level, Congress must take the lead in enacting overdue law enforcement reforms to bring about structural change across the nation,” said Pingree. “Unchecked racial bias and the well-documented use of force against Black Americans is a scourge on our country, and the lack of accountability from police departments is both outrageous and unacceptable. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would ban police from using the chokeholds and carotid holds which killed George Floyd, Eric Garner, and too many others whose stories we do not know. The bill would address the injustice of qualified immunity, which has allowed the police to evade consequences for the murder of Breonna Taylor and countless others. If lawmakers can decry racial injustice on social media and say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they must join us in supporting this historic bill to protect the lives of Black Americans from police brutality.”

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would be the most significant federal police reform legislation in generations. Since the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers on May 25, millions of Americans have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and systemic racism.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 will:

Hold police accountable in our courts by: 

  • Amending the mens rea (intent) requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct, from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;
  • Reforming qualified immunity so that individuals are not entirely barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights;
  • Improving the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations;
  • Incentivizing states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths through grants; and
  • Creating best practices recommendations based on the Obama 21st Century Policing Task force.

Improve transparency into policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force by:  

  • Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problem-officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability; and
  • Mandating state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.

Improve police training and practices by:   

  • Ending racial and religious profiling;
  • Mandating training on racial bias and the duty to intervene;
  • Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;
  • Banning chokeholds and carotid holds;
  • Changing the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was reasonable to whether the force was necessary;
  • Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;
  • Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and 
  • Requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.

Make lynching a federal crime by:

  • Making it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.

In addition to her co-sponsorship of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, Pingree supports the following bills to address systemic racism and racially biased policing in America:

  • H.R. 7085, The Bipartisan Ending Qualified Immunity Act 
  • H.R. 1636, The Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act
  • H.R. 125, Police Training and Independent Review Act
  • H.R. 4359, PEACE (Police Accountability by Raising Standard for Use of Excessive Force) Act 
  • H.R. 119, National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act
  • H.R. 2875, The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act
  • H. Con.Res.100, The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Resolution 

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