Democrats roll out details of police reform bill in Congress

With fresh momentum for change in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd which touched off days of violence and protests around the nation, House and Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a sweeping new police reform proposal, designed to promote more accountability for officers using unnecessary violence.

"We now have over 200 co-sponsors," said Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the driving force behind the legislation.

"Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what what we saw on the streets in Minneapolis," Bass told a Capitol Hill news conference. "The slow murder of an individual by a uniformed police officer."

"We're here because black Americans want to stop being killed," said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). "This specifically is a bill about accountability and consequence."

"Unless there's accountability, there will never be change," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). "Unless there's change, brutality will continue."

The 134 page bill states that the goal of the legislation is to "hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies."

Among the major changes:

+ Changing the doctrine of 'qualified immunity' for police officers, allowing people to sue for damages if officers are found to have violated their constitutional rights.

+ Make it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers for misconduct by changing the definition from 'willful' to acting 'knowingly' or 'with reckless disregard.'

+ Provide money to state attorneys general to help them pay for independent investigations of possible police brutality, and conduct broader 'pattern and practice' investigations of police departments.

+ Set up a National Police Misconduct Registry, making it more difficult for officers to simply switch over to another jurisdiction without knowledge of previous brutality issues.

+ Require states to report data on use force incidents, whether by an officer against a civilian, or the use of force against a law enforcement officer.

+ Efforts to improve police training and end racial profiling.

+ Ban "No-Knock" warrants in drug cases at the federal level.

+ Ban the use of police choke holds and placing a knee on the neck of a suspect being detained by police (the way George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis).

+ Limit the transfer of military equipment to state and local law enforcement.

More on the details of the bill can be found in this release from the House Judiciary Committee. 

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