A CLOSER LOOK: police reform bill calls for accountability & social justice

A Closer Look

H.R. 1280 would create a National Police Misconduct Registry

Demonstrators display placards while marching during a protest, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in the Nubian Square neighborhood, of Boston, a day after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd. Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd. The demonstrators called for police reforms and racial equality. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — In June of 2020, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (H.R. 7120) cleared the House, but did not make it past the then Republican-led Senate.

The bill introduces sweeping police reform after protests over the killings of Blacks by police in the U.S.

H.R. 1280, passed the House (220-212) on March 3, 2021 — now, it’s wait-and-see if it clears the Senate.

Democrats are making a push for the bill, as many lauded Tuesday’s decision, by jurors, in Derek Chauvin’s trial. The former police officer was found guilty of all three charges in the death of George Floyd last Memorial Day in Minneapolis.

H.R. 1280 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021

The bill “enhances existing enforcement mechanisms to remedy violations by law enforcement,” and…

  • Lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution.
  • Limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer.
  • Grants administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations.
  • Creates a National Police Misconduct Registry to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct.
  • Establishes new reporting requirements, including the use of force, officer misconduct, and routine policing practices (e.g., stops and searches).
  • Directs DOJ to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies.
  • Requires law enforcement officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force.
  • Places bans on chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level.
  • Deadly force may be used as a last resort and officers are required to use de-escalation techniques first.

Section 104 ((C) Independent Investigations) of the bill includes the term “independent prosecutor.” This means during a criminal investigation, or prosecution, of a law enforcement officer’s use of deadly force, a prosecutor must not oversee the law enforcement agency which employs the officer who is under investigation.

In Section 113, Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, the Attorney General will look over, “existing accreditation standards and methodology developed by law enforcement accreditation organizations nationwide, including national, state, regional, and Tribal accreditation organizations.”

This analysis will review the recommendations made by former President Obama in May 2015, titled “Final Report of the President’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ).” The executive order was signed by Mr. Obama in December 2014, and the 11-member task force met seven times in the first two months of 2015.

The goal was to “understand challenges to policing and help communities identify ways to improve law enforcement and community engagement.”

In Arkansas, Fayetteville (Washington County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County) are two cities that participate in the Police Data Initiative that was issued by the DOJ through the 21 Century Policing report.

The state has 540 cities, Little Rock is the largest city with a population of nearly 200,000 and Gilbert (Searcy County) has the smallest population at 33, according to census bureau data.

The dispatched calls made to law enforcement are submitted into the Police Data Initiative.

In Fayetteville, between the years 2016 through 2019, 178,530 calls were made — an average of about 45,000 calls per year. In 2017, there was an increase of 4,726 calls compared to 2016. (2016 = 40,467 and 2017 = 45,193). Year-over-year, calls to police have increased. In 2019 there were 47,030.

In Little Rock, there were 150,827 dispatched calls in 2019 — an average of 2,900 calls per week, according to its Police Data Initiative report.

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