Rep. Huffman Votes to Pass Justice in Policing Act of 2020
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) voted to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a comprehensive policing reform bill introduced by Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). This legislation is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives.
“Systemic racism and injustices against Black people and communities of color have been tolerated in this country for far too long. This is our moment of reckoning: a chance for Americans to finally confront our original sin of racism and change the systems and policies that have perpetuated it,”said Representative Huffman. “And we cannot fall short with half measures or empty promises proposed by Trump and Senate Republicans. It has been one of the greatest honors of my career to join with Chairwoman Karen Bass, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the full weight of the Democratic Caucus to fight for and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This is an important step – one of many that are needed – to take real action that shows that Black lives matter.”
Earlier this month, Rep. Huffman hosted a virtual town hall with Congressional Black CaucusChairwoman Karen Bass about police reform and equal justice. During the event, the lawmakers provided information about the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and responded to questions and suggestions from viewers via Facebook Live. They were also joined by panelists Curtis Robinson, MD, President, Marin County Board of Education, and Marshall Carr, a writer and public high school teacher in Rep. Huffman’s district.
The full event recording can be found here. Excerpts from the town hall’s highlights can be found at the end of this press release.
Here’s what some stakeholders are saying. The full list of supporters can be found here.
Joint Letter from more than 750 musicians, entertainers and music companies: “We in the music and entertainment communities believe that Black lives matter and have long decried the injustices endured by generations of Black citizens. We are more determined than ever to push for federal, state, and local law enforcement programs that truly serve their communities. Accordingly, we are grateful for movement of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 in the U.S. House of Representatives and urge its quick passage. The Justice in Policing Act is not about marginal change; it takes bold steps that will make a real, positive difference for law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Joint Statement from Key Civil Rights Groups: NAACP; National Urban League; National Action Network; National Coalition on Black Civic Participation & Black Women's Roundtable; Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.: “We support Congress taking an important step toward police accountability by introducing the Justice in Policing Act. In the aftermath of the recent police killings of Black people, we sent Congress a strong police accountability framework that is reflected in this legislation. The bill takes on critical issues such as redefining police misconduct, establishing a national use of force standard, increasing the U.S. Department of Justice's authority to prosecute misconduct by law enforcement officers, and more. This legislation makes clear that police brutality, misconduct, harassment, and killing have no place in America. Many provisions in the bill reflect the insights of national and local civil rights organizations that have worked for years on these issues. As the bill advances toward passage, we will continue to work to improve it to ensure that real and meaningful change is achieved. We express appreciation to Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Bass, Chairman Nadler, and Senators Booker and Harris, for their leadership to quickly and substantively meet this moment and address this pressing issue. If Congress truly represents the will of the people, they must take action swiftly to ensure equality and justice for all.”
Joint Statement from Mayors throughout the country: Sylvester Turner (Houston, TX); Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles, CA); Jacob Frey (Minneapolis, MN); Jenny A. Durkan (Seattle, WA); Ron Nirenberg (San Antonio, TX); London Breed (San Francisco, CA); Michael B. Hancock (Denver, CO); Steve Adler (Austin, TX); Libby Schaff (Oakland, CA); Ted Wheeler (Portland, OR); Victoria Woodards (Tacoma, WA); Satya Rhodes-Conway (Madison, WI); Regina Romero (Tucson, AZ); John Cooper (Nashville, TN); and Rusty Bailey (Riverside, CA): “As the mayors of America’s cities we write to you in strong support of The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (H.R. 7120/S. 3912). In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many other innocent lives lost, we commit to bringing our voices to Washington and join Congress in pursuit of the changes America needs to end the pattern of brutality and discrimination.”
Full text of the legislation is available here.
A section-by-section summary of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is available here.
A fact sheet on the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is available here.
Highlights from Rep. Huffman and Chairwoman Bass’s Town Hall
Rep. Huffman: “Congresswoman Karen Bass, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. Karen Bass and I go back a long time we served together in the State Assembly, I used to call her Madam Speaker. She is a fantastic leader and a great friend. I’m also joined by two of my local constituents, each of which I would consider leaders in their own right in the African American community and beyond. Curtis Robinson of Mill Valley is a prominent physician in Marin County and an elected member of the Marin County Board of Education. Like me, Curtis graduated from the greatest university in America, UC Santa Barbara. He did some amazing work on equality and civil rights there and has continued to be engaged in the community doing all kinds of good work, so I welcome his perspective in our conversation. A little further north in our district on the coast of Mendocino in the town of Fort Bragg is high school English and digital media teacher, Michael Carr, an extremely thoughtful writer and community leader, providing a different perspective from a different area in the district I get to represent and we’re grateful to have his input.”
Rep. Bass: “It is wonderful to be here with you, Jared is one of my best friends in Congress. He is somebody I went through the wars with in California. I had the opportunity to visit your district one time and it is beautiful, I look forward to going back again. He’s an outstanding leader in Congress, but I know you all already know that.”
The Current Moment
Rep. Huffman: “The Police Reform that Rep Karen Bass is leading on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus is generating a lot of support and excitement. I’ve never seen a package of reform that’s this ambitious with so much broad support. Tell us a little bit about what we are attempting to do at this moment and why?”
Rep. Bass: “We are attempting to respond to a moral moment in this country. We are in a period in our history that I’ve seen many moments before, back to Rodney King when the video surfaced and I thought everything was going to be fine because the world saw it and no one was going to be able to deny it and that was it. Then, a few years later after the response around the country following Rodney King, cell phone cameras were invented and we saw even more examples of police abuse, even murders. But what happened after almost every one of them was people immediately began to question that was dead or the person that was beat up or it was said that ‘we don’t really know what happened before the tape and don’t really know about this person’s background’, as though being arrested, tried and innocent until proven guilty just flew right out the window when it came to these tapes. I think that the torturous, slow murder of George Floyd that the entire world witnessed was just a bridge too far. It has led to the thousands of protesters that are out there and also led us to act. I am honored that Madam Speaker asked me to take the lead because of my dual role of chairing the Congressional Black Caucus and my role in chairing the subcommittee in Judiciary that handles this kind of crime.”
Features of the Bill
Rep. Bass: “A few features of the bill: accountability, removing qualified immunity from police officers, which is one of the reasons why you saw that officer sit there and look dead in the camera with complete impunity because he knew nothing was going to happen to him. Although of course this time he was wrong. The duty to intervene is included because two of those officers participated in the killing while one officer acted as a look out. Our bill would require those officers to intervene when they see something like that. It will also include a database. Tamir Rice would be graduating high school, he was killed when he was twelve years old six years ago by a police officer who thought a twelve year old was a threat and had been fired from another police department because of his instability and propensity to violence. A national registry where that police chief could have found out that this officer was unstable could have prevented this. Breonna Taylor would be alive today if no knock warrants for drug cases were outlawed. The chokehold will also be made illegal. Eric Garner and George Floyd would be alive today if this was done. The militarization of police departments will be addressed, our police departments do not need to look better armed than the military”.
Rep. Bass: “Around the world people are questioning us, because in a lot of countries we are always horrified when they see that we send the military out to resolve a domestic unrest. Well what did we do? We send our police departments out, but they look like the military and then we added the national guard onto that.”
Rep. Bass: “The other part of the bill that I want to mention is the attempt to help officers because there are no national standards, there is no accreditation. To get your haircut your barber has to be accredited, so certainly in a profession that has the ability to kill others should have national standards and accreditation. We are also providing grants to communities so that they can re-envision public safety in the community.”
Rep. Bass: “Our budgets are out of balance. We have decided to criminalize health, social, and economic problems, and have left the police to deal with the consequences. Looking at police budgets and how we go about keeping our community safe is all incorporated into the bill that will be named the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act”
Leveraging Moments of Outrage for Change
Rep. Huffman: “What do you think could be different this time and what can we do to get it done?”
Rep. Bass: “First of all we have to stick to our guns. What the President did today and what Republicans did, which in a way I’m encouraged by, is taking our categories, the ideas from our legislation. They’re taking the teeth out of them, for example they don’t say ‘ban chokeholds’ they say ‘let’s study chokeholds’. Breonna Taylor was shot 12 times in her sleep because of a no-knock-warrant, they say ‘let’s collect the data on no-knock-warrants’. Hundreds of thousands of people are out in all 50 states of our country, this is not the time for vanity legislation. This is the time for substantive legislation and we have got to demonstrate to the people out there on the streets that we are serious.”
The Time for Substantive Change
Rep. Huffman: “Why is it so important that we have teeth in these measures?”
Rep. Bass: “Because otherwise nothing will change. President Trump is presenting us with smoke and mirrors instead of substance. Even within our bill, there’s so much more we need to do and should do and will do. This is a very important first step to try to put a change in police culture.”
Rep. Bass: “When we do something like gun control or healthcare they reject it wholesale, they don't even come near to where we are. Here, they took almost each one of our categories and just pulled the teeth out of them. So our job is getting it over to the Senate and putting the teeth back in the bill. I think right now we’ve moved too fast for the Republicans to get on board our bill, but I know that in the markup they will be presenting amendments that mimic our bill and I’ve never seen that before”
Rep. Huffman: “They’re realized that something has changed in public opinion and they want to at least appear that their on the right side of it”
Rep. Bass: “It usually takes some time to get all the Democrats on the same page but within 72 hours we had the majority of the Caucus and right now we have 227 cosponsors and we need 213 votes to get the bill out of the House.
Defund the Police
Rep. Huffman: “Can you speak to the broader contextualization of this conversation?”
Rep. Bass: “Thirty years ago in 1990 I started a grassroots organization in South Central Los Angeles because we saw the divestment beginning. We saw budgets being cut, we saw cities losing major programs, the safety net being stripped, block grants coming in place. Although we’ve always had this tendency, that’s when you saw the beginning of policies that led to mass incineration. Everyone talks about the crime bill, which was significant, but there were a lot of polices that were put in place that I started that organization to fight against that. Here we are thirty years later with the consequences. What’s at the heart of this is overtime city budgets, especially in regard to the police part of city budgets, have grown while we have divested from dealing with social, economic and health issues. For example, in Los Angeles, we have a jail called Twin Towers that is the most expensive mental health institution in our country, and it’s a jail. Thousands of people are in there because that’s what we do to the mentally ill, so in LA at any given evening we have over 40,000 people sleeping on the streets and all that involves. We’ve divested from communities, and left it to the police to pick up the pieces. So part of what is at the heart and root of that movement and that call, obviously I don’t support eliminating police departments or taking all of their funding away, the idea is that we need to have a conversation in our country about why we are so willing to spend money on police and jails while we fight over a $400 check for food stamps for a family. As long as we continue to not support families in trouble then police budgets wind up expanding because we have criminalized our social health and economic problems […] That is what is at the heart of the defund the police movement, but Republicans have seized on it to try and divide us from each other, and we should not accept that division”
Rep. Huffman: “No one is pretending that somehow we’ve achieved some utopian status where we never have crime or a need for law enforcement. They’re taking a moment to look at that disinvestment trend and to reimagine standards, policies and priorities.”
Rep. Bass: “In Minneapolis, they are doing exactly what you just said. This is a police department that 97% of the police officers don’t live anywhere near Minneapolis. That’s a problem. They’re taking a moment to say what are our issues? How are we keeping everyone safe?”
Curtis Robinson Initial Words
“I want to say how proud I am of the Congresswoman and the entire Black Caucus who is represented with 55 members in the Congress. When you presented this bill we’re talking about today wearing the kente cloth and you had Madame Pelosi wearing the cloth it was a special moment not only for me, but my five children and any African American, or person of color across the country and across the world. To see that and hear that and to know that you’re leading the way in this fight that so many of us have been in since we were born, before us and onwards. Thank you so much Congresswoman and Jared thank you for honoring all of the work that all people of color are doing and you have always been committed to these causes. It’s a very special moment in time and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Marshall Carr Initial Words
“I appreciate everything you’re doing. I have two children and they’re watching this right now and they’re able to see folks standing up and fighting for this. I would love to see these reforms happen across police departments, it's important for those of us who are raising kids in this world right now still having these conversations in 2020.”
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