The legislation seeks to limit legal protections for police and create a national database of excessive-force incidents, among other changes. Whether Republican-controlled Senate will clear the bill is still unclear. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer kneel with Congressional Democrats during a moment of silence to honour George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others inside Emancipation Hall at the US Capitol in Washington, US on June 8, 2020. (Reuters) US Democrats, led by a group of black lawmakers, unveiled sweeping legislation on Monday to combat police violence and racial injustice, two weeks after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody led to widespread protests.
The bill would allow victims of misconduct and their families to seek financial damages against police by limiting the legal doctrine known as “qualified immunity”.
It would also make lynching a federal hate crime. What the bill will not do is defund the police or reimagine public safety measures.
Democrats hope to bring the legislation to the floor of the House of Representatives before the end of June.
But its reception in the Republican-controlled Senate is unclear, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noncommittal on the need for legislation.
READ MORE: What does it mean to defund the police?
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stands with members of the Congressional Black Caucus during a news conference to unveil legislation to combat police violence and racial injustice at the US Capitol in Washington, US on June 8, 2020. (Reuters) Democrats take a knee
Earlier, Democrats kneeled in silence in the US Congress as they observed an eight-minute, 46-second tribute to George Floyd and other black Americans “who have unjustly lost their lives.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer were joined by two dozen lawmakers in Congress' Emancipation Hall – named in honour of the slaves who helped erect the US Capitol in the 18th century.
The tribute was an acknowledgement of the time a white police officer pinned his knee on the neck of the 46-year-old Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis May 25 unleashed mass protests against racial injustice.
READ MORE: Why do black Americans face more police violence?
From chokeholds to racial profiling
The proposal bans police chokeholds and racial profiling, requires nationwide use of body cameras, subjects police to civilian review boards and abolishes the legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which protects police from civil litigation, according to congressional sources.
The package confronts several aspects of law enforcement accountability and practices that have come under criticism, especially as more and more police violence is captured on cell phone video and shared widely across the nation, and the world.
It is the most ambitious changes to law enforcement sought by Congress in years.
“It is time for police culture in many departments to change,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Representative Karen Bass, who is leading the effort, told CNN earlier on Sunday calling it “transformative.”
Bass said the package from House and Senate Democrats will be bolder than any law enforcement changes of the past decade.
“It is time for police culture in many departments to change,” she said. “And we believe that the legislation will make a major step forward in that direction.”
Democrat Karen Bass is seen at the House impeachment inquiry hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on December 9, 2019. (Reuters) 'National Police Misconduct Registry'
The draft document, obtained by The Associated Press, said 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 legislation would seek to provide greater oversight and transparency of police behaviour 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.
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.
A protester holds a sign listing victims of police violence during a demonstration across the street from the White House over the death of George Floyd on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. (AFP) Defunding police not included
A long-sought federal anti-lynching bill stalled in Congress is included in the package.
The presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has backed a ban on chokeholds and other elements of the package.
Senator Cory Booker, a Democratic rival who had been critical of Biden during the presidential primary campaign, said he “fully” put his faith in Biden now “to be the person who could preside over this transformative change.”
“This is a referendum on who we are as Americans and who we’re going to be to each other,” Booker said on NBC.
It is unclear if the proposal will receive support from Republicans, who control the US Senate.
Their support and that of Republican President Donald Trump would be needed for the measure to become law.
However, the package stops short 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.
This combination of handout photos created on June 3, 2020 shows (L-R) ex-officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Kiernan Lane booking photos. These former Minneapolis police officers accused of killing George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, were arrested and charged on May 25, 2020. (Hennepin County Jail / AFP) Floyd's death in Minneapolis, where then-policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, was the latest in a string of killings of black men and women by US police that have sparked anger on America's streets and fresh calls for reform.
A Reuters investigation published last month revealed how qualified immunity, refined over the years by the US Supreme Court, has made it easier for cops to kill or wound civilians with impunity.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies
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