Kneeling and wearing Kente cloths, Democrats unveil Justice in Policing Act. Here’s what is in it

Congressional Democrats proposed a sweeping overhaul of police oversight and procedures Monday, a potentially far-reaching legislative response to the mass protests over the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police.

Before unveiling the package, House and Senate Democrats held a moment of silence at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall and knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds,  the length of time prosecutors say Floyd was pinned under a police officer’s knee before he died. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats wore Kente cloths,  brightly colored woven textile that has grown to become a symbol of West African pride and identity.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, and other members of Congress, kneel and observe a moment of silence at the Capitol's Emancipation Hall, Monday, June 8, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, reading the names of George Floyd and others killed during police interactions. Democrats proposed a sweeping overhaul of police oversight and procedures Monday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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The Justice in Policing Act would limit legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force incidents and ban police chokeholds, among other changes, according to an early draft. It is the most ambitious change to law enforcement sought by Congress in years.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-California, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is leading the effort, called it “transformative.”

"We're in a real moment in our country," Bass said Sunday on CNN, speaking after days of massive protests set off by the death of Floyd and other African Americans involving the police.

The proposed legislation would revise the federal criminal police misconduct statute to make it easier to prosecute officers who are involved in misconduct “knowingly or with reckless disregard.”

The package would also change “qualified immunity” protections for police “to enable individuals to recover damages when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights,” it says.

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The legislation would seek to provide greater oversight and transparency of police behavior in several ways. For one, it would grant subpoena power to the Justice Department to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations of potential misconduct and help states conduct independent investigations. It would ban racial profiling and boost requirements for police body cameras.

And it would create a “National Police Misconduct Registry,” a database to try to prevent officers from transferring from one department to another with past misconduct undetected, the draft said.

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A long-sought federal anti-lynching bill that stalled in Congress is included in the package.

However, the package stops short of calls by leading activists to “defund the police,” a push to dismantle or reduce financial resources to police departments that has struck new intensity in the weeks of protests since Floyd’s death.

The presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has backed a ban on chokeholds and other elements of the package, but said Monday he does not support the current "Defund the Police" movement.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, a co-author with Bass and the Democratic senators, will convene a hearing on the legislation Wednesday.

U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, both former Democratic presidential candidates, are the bill’s Senate co-authors.