Is police reform on the way? We’re going to find out soon enough.
The Washington Examiner reports that this upcoming week both congressional Republicans and Democrats are going to put forth separate police reform bills. But only one of those bills has a chance of getting past President Trump’s desk.
The Republicans’ Bill
Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), will bring to the table what is being called the Justice Act.
This bill, if passed, would make a large number of changes to the way police officers do their jobs. It would, for example, disincentivize “dangerous techniques” such as chokeholds, require more accurate reporting on the use of force and “no-knock” warrants,” increase penalties for false police reports, incentivize the proper usage of police body cameras, ensure that departments have access to personal records for hiring decisions, and so on.
If we do need police reform, then these would seem to be the sort of things that ought to be addressed.
Although it is widely supported by Republicans, however, Democrats don’t appear to have gotten on board. Why? Because, according to them, the Justice Act doesn’t go far enough.
The Democrats’ Version
Just as the Republicans are pushing their measure in the Senate, where they have the majority, the Democrats are doing the same in the House, where they are in control. Democrats are calling their police reform bill the Justice in Policing Act.
Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats bill starts from the premise that there exists a racial bias in policing against black communities. Thus, according to the Democrats, any reforms, if they are going to meaningful, have to start there.
Democrats address this by prohibiting “racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling,” by outright banning chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants, by allowing deadly force on as a “last resort,” and so forth.
But, the big-ticket item that the Democrats are putting forth – the item with which Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have firmly been opposed – is the elimination of qualified immunity for officers. This is the immunity that police officers and others have been given so that they can do their job without having to worry about constantly being sued over every little thing.
The Justice Act is expected to be put up for a preliminary vote before the Senate on Wednesday, and the Justice in Policing Act before the House on Thursday.
This should give us some idea as to how the future of policing is going to look.