Udall, Heinrich Introduce Historic Justice in Policing Act of 2020

Bill would implement policies to increase accountability for excessive force, ban the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants, increase data collection on use of force incidents and end use of racial and religious profiling

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined 35 senators and 166 representatives as original cosponsors of the Justice in Policing Act, landmark legislation authored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to reform the police system as Americans across the country demand an end to police violence disproportionately targeting Black Americans and other minority communities in the United States and following the recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers. Congressional Black Caucus Chair U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) are sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

The bill would reform the current law of “qualified immunity” that often makes it difficult to hold police officers accountable for using excessive force, even in cases that result in death. The bill would also increase transparency in police use of force, ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement, mandate the use of body cameras for police officers, end use of racial and religious profiling and finally designate lynching as a federal crime.

“Across the United States, the American people are taking to the streets to demand an end to the unacceptable police brutality that disproportionately targets Black people and people of color,” Udall said. “We must listen to New Mexicans and Americans of all walks of life who are calling for justice—and we must enact comprehensive, systemic reform to ensure police accountability, build trust between law enforcement and our communities, and prevent these tragedies in the future. Every community deserves to feel safe. This legislation does not denigrate the service of police officers in New Mexico and across the country who serve their communities with honor and integrity. But it does take on the very real issues with this country’s culture of policing, and the systemic bias that results in police officers targeting people of color with excessive force. The flaws in our policing and justice system are not only unjust, but also undermine the safety of all communities. While this bill would implement long-overdue reforms to policing nationwide, our nation must also confront longstanding racial injustices that are embedded in the justice system, and that exclude people of color from systems of government and access to equal economic opportunity. We must do better. New Mexico has made some progress in recent years in response to tragic incidents, but we must re-commit and act with urgency so that our state and our nation live up to our ideals. We have work to do to build a nation where every person can live free from the burden of fear that has unfairly fallen on communities of color, and where justice and equality are a reality for every single citizen.”

“Horrific incidents of police violence and unconscionable loss of life have shaken our nation to its core. Our country desperately needs an honest appraisal of the policies that continue to prop up and propel racism. We must address the persistent, unchecked bias in policing, and the violence and hurt it inflicts on our communities of color,” said Heinrich. “I am proud to support my colleagues Senators Booker and Harris in introducing these sweeping reforms to stem the tide of police violence in America. I will continue to stand up for equal justice and civil rights. There is still so much more hard work ahead.”

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020:

Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.

Bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.

Mandates the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal offices and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.

Establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave on agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.

Amends federal criminal statute from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct.

Reforms the judicial doctrine of qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights.

Establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.

Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Task force on 21st Century policing.

Requires state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.

Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.

Establishes a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 was introduced by Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and co-sponsored in the Senate by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), 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.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Calif.), 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.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).