Senator Scott Releases JUSTICE Act, Proposing Police Reform

6/18/20

Earlier this week President Trump signed an executive order concerning police brutality and reform. Of note in the executive order:

  • Certification and Credentialing.  State and local law enforcement agencies must constantly assess and improve their practices and policies to ensure transparent, safe, and accountable delivery of law enforcement services to their communities. Independent credentialing bodies can accelerate these assessments, enhance citizen confidence in law enforcement practices, and allow for the identification and correction of internal deficiencies before those deficiencies result in injury to the public or to law enforcement officers.
  • Information Sharing. The Attorney General shall create a database to coordinate the sharing of information between and among Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies concerning instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters, accounting for applicable privacy and due process rights.
  • Mental Health, Homelessness, and Addiction.  Since the mid-twentieth century, America has witnessed a reduction in targeted mental health treatment.  Ineffective policies have left more individuals with mental health needs on our Nation’s streets, which has expanded the responsibilities of law enforcement officers.  As a society, we must take steps to safely and humanely care for those who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse in a manner that addresses such individuals’ needs and the needs of their communities.  It is the policy of the United States to promote the use of appropriate social services as the primary response to individuals who suffer from impaired mental health, homelessness, and addiction, recognizing that, because law enforcement officers often encounter such individuals suffering from these conditions in the course of their duties, all officers should be properly trained for such encounters.
  • Legislation and Grant Programs.  The Attorney General, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, shall develop and propose new legislation to the Congress that could be enacted to enhance the tools and resources available to improve law enforcement practices and build community engagement.

This comes on the heels of Senator Tim Scott releasing his plan on police reform that will be taken up next week. His proposal, called the JUSTICE Act, includes incentives for police departments to ban chokeholds, more disclosure requirements about the use of force and no-knock warrants and penalties for false reports. The legislation includes emergency grant programs for body cameras, makes lynching a federal hate crime and creates a commission to study the conditions facing black men and the criminal justice system.

Law Enforcement Reform

  • The JUSTICE Act strengthens the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, providing law enforcement with new funding to do so, and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds
  • Additionally, the bill will reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve
  • The JUSTICE Act also ensures when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary record.
  • Too often, after a tragic incident, we have learned the offending officer had a disciplinary past in another jurisdiction of which their current employer was unaware

Accountability

  • Studies show that when body cameras are properly used violent encounters decrease significantly
  • The JUSTICE Act will put more body cameras on the streets, and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly
  • JUSTICE also requires a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers

Transparency

  • Currently, only about 40 percent of police officers from jurisdictions nationwide report to the FBI after an incident where an officer has discharged his or her weapon or used force
  • The bill will require full reporting in these two areas
  • There is also very little data as to when, where and why no knock warrants are used, and the JUSTICE Act will require reporting in this area as well

Additional Steps

  • The JUSTICE Act will finally make lynching a federal crime
  • It also creates two commissions to study and offer solutions to a broader range of challenges facing black men and boys, and the criminal justice system as a whole

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