June 08, 2020

Senator Hirono Cosponsors Justice in Policing Act, Legislation to Strengthen Police Accountability, Transparency

Legislation introduced by Senators Booker and Harris, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Bass, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler

Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) cosponsored the Justice in Policing Act, legislation introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

The legislation marks the first comprehensive bill dedicated to ending police brutality, holding police accountable for egregious misconduct, strengthening transparency by collecting better data, and improving police practices and training to prevent discriminatory policing.

“Communities of color in America have faced deadly racism and discrimination for centuries, including police brutality and abuse. After the horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many other Black Americans, millions of protestors reflecting the diversity of our country—including thousands in Hawaii who marched and protested over the weekend—have come together to demand change,” Senator Hirono said. “This legislation addresses systemic police brutality and violence with long overdue and comprehensive changes to policing in America. At this pivotal moment, we must act with urgency to move this legislation forward.”

The Justice in Policing Act would:

  • Make lynching a federal crime
  • Hold police accountable by:
    • Reforming qualified immunity, which, as currently interpreted, has too often prevented law enforcement officers from being held legally liable for violating an individual’s constitutional rights
    • Amending the mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. 242, the federal criminal statute used to prosecute police misconduct, from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;
    • Improving the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations;
    • Incentivizing states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths through grants; and
    • Requiring the Justice Department to create best practices recommendations based on President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force.
  • Boost transparency by collecting stronger data of police misconduct and use of force by:
    • Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent officers from changing jurisdictions solely to avoid accountability; and
    • Mandating that state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, disability, age, and English language.
  • Change police practices and training to help end racial and religious profiling and excessive use of force by:
    • Requiring training on racial bias and the duty to intervene;
    • Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;
    • Banning chokeholds and carotid holds;
    • Changing the use of force standard from whether the force was reasonable to whether the force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury;
    • Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;
    • Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and
    • Requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body camera.                 

In addition to Senators Hirono, Booker, and Harris, the Justice in Policing Act is supported by 32 Senate cosponsors, including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The bill has more than 160 cosponsors in the House.

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of civil rights organizations including Demand Progress, Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Action Network, National African American Clergy Network, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), Black Millennial Convention, and the National Urban League.