The Multi-Pronged Effort on Police Reform

Robert Brooks Contributor
The Multi-Pronged Effort on Police Reform
Read Time: approx. 2:51

Cover: Public Domain

The Multi-Pronged Effort on Police Reform: On Tuesday President Trump announced an executive order addressing police reform amid growing calls for action in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Trump told reporters at the White House that, “The overall goal is we want law and order and we want it done fairly, justly. We want it done safely.” Today we look at what’s included in the President’s executive order, what Senate republicans are planning to announce, how both differ from the Democrats’ proposal, and if there is any common ground between all three initiatives:

On the Right / From the White House: President Trump’s executive order has three main pillars. The first is to provide credentials and certifications that will motivate police departments to update their use-of-force practices. The second is the creation of a database to track abusive officers that can be shared between different departments. The third is pairing social service workers with police officers on nonviolent response calls. The aim of the final component is to help officers better deal with issues such as mental health, drug addiction, and homelessness. According to Alex Leary and Kristina Peterson of The Wall Street Journal, “the actions are incentives rather than mandates, though higher standards could help departments compete for federal grants.” While President Trump’s executive order won’t satisfy police-reform advocates who want to “defund” or reallocate police budgets, it’s a step in the right direction. It may act as an influential stepping-stone for more concrete pieces of legislation working their way through both chambers of congress. Speaking of which, House Democrats and Senate Republicans are working on bills of their own:

On the Right / In the Senate: Today, Senate Republicans led by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C) will likely unveil their own police reform bill. The focus will be on limiting the use of chokeholds and providing more federal funding for deescalation training. According to Axios the Senate’s proposal will also, “create a national database of officers who use excessive force, make federal lynching a hate crime, [and] provide a new funding stream for jurisdictions to purchase and implement body cameras.” The biggest takeaway, however, is that “qualified immunity” — which protects officers from lawsuits against their actions in the field — is not currently addressed in the bill. Let’s see if that changes when it’s released later today.

On the Left / In the House and Senate: On Monday, June 8, House and Senate Democrats unveiled a piece of legislation titled the “Justice in Policing Act of 2020.” The bill has more than 200 sponsors and is expected to be approved by the House Judiciary Committee today before a vote of the full House later this month. Most notably, the Democrats’ bill would curb the “qualified immunity” protection established by the Supreme Court. Specifically, it would allow citizens to collect some damages if their constitutional rights are found to be violated by police. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would also ban chokeholds at a federal level, prohibit no-knock warrants in drug cases, set up a public national registry of police misconduct, and establish a database to better track when police officers use force.

Flag This: In the past, “Congress has often struggled to address policing issues on a bipartisan basis as some say decisions about policing tactics, training, and strategies should be solved at the state and local level,” NPR reports. That said, this time is different as evidenced by the multi-pronged initiatives outlined above. As noted, President Trump’s EO provides an executive branch foundation for talks between the legislative arms of the government. There is a lot of common ground that lawmakers seem to agree on including banning chokeholds, establishing a database, and even allocating more federal funds to training officers or making sure they have social workers by their sides. The biggest stumbling block looks like it will be addressing qualified immunity. What’s interesting is that the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to reexamine qualified immunity. The announcement was overshadowed by the Justices’ decision regarding employment discrimination against LGBTQ workers. This means that Democrats have an uphill battle if Senate Republicans decide not to include it in their proposal today. Despite obstacles in the past, we think there is a high percentage chance some form of legislation gets passed addressing police reform. If not, government leaders will likely face not only a potential “second wave” of coronavirus infections, but a “second wave” of protests as well.