Over the course of eight minutes and forty-six seconds, George Floyd was cruelly murdered under the knee of a police officer as other policemen looked on and did nothing. Floyd’s murder was not an isolated incident, but another tragic event in a long history of police brutality towards Black Americans. 

During the past weeks, I have joined countless protesters marching in Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, and all around Southwest Connecticut to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement and elevate Black voices in our communities. Like you, hundreds of thousands of your Southwest Connecticut neighbors are committed to dismantling the systemic racism that lives in so many American institutions. 

This moment calls for immediate action. That’s why I joined over two hundred of my colleagues in co-sponsoring the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. This comprehensive legislative package would drastically reform policing, hold bad actors accountable, and help mend the relationship between law enforcement agencies and local communities. It sends a clear message that Black lives matter, are important, and must be protected. 

The bill would:

  • Increase accountability by:
    • Making it easier to prosecute police misconduct;
    • Reforming qualified immunity so that victims can recover damages when police violate their constitutional rights;
    • Providing grants to states that adopt laws that mandate external and independent criminal investigations and prosecutions in cases of police misconduct; 
    • Granting subpoena authority to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to investigate law enforcement agencies with a “pattern or practice” of violating constitutional rights and incentivizing states to adopt similar investigations.
  • Promote best practices and improve officer training by:
    • Outlawing racial, religious and discriminatory profiling;
    • Requiring training on racial and implicit biases, procedural justice, and the duty to intervene;
    • Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;
    • Prohibiting the use of chokeholds and carotid holds;
    • Raising the standards for when force can be used and requiring that all reasonable alternatives, including de-escalation techniques, are used before deadly force;
    • Mandating the use of dashboard and body cameras.
  • Improve our understanding of police misconduct and use-of-force by:  
    • Requiring states to submit disciplinary, termination, and legal records against law enforcement officers to a National Police Misconduct Registry;
    • Mandating that state and local law enforcement agencies report comprehensive use of force data to the federal government, including information about the victim and officer involved, the circumstance surrounding the incident, the reason force was used, etc.
  • Limit and regulate the federal transfer of military weapons and equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies
  • Make lynching a federal crime

Police brutality towards Black Americans is nothing new. In fact, it sits on a 400-year system of inequities, injustices, and violence. What will we do to address the underlying conditions that have allowed this system to fester? While this bill is an important step forward, it will not meaningfully address the deeply inequitable conditions that exist in our educational, housing, and health care systems that deny economic opportunity to communities of color. That is our next, and in many cases, more difficult task. In the days and weeks ahead, we must all stand together working with law enforcement, government, and community leaders to address these ingrained problems that have gone unresolved for far too long.