On the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, family members are scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden, vigils are taking place across the country in Floyd’s honor, and the fate of the police reform act named after him remains uncertain. Biden set a deadline for May 25 to have the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act “done” but it remains in the Senate struggling to gain the necessary support to pass on the floor. The House passed its version of the act back in March.
Under the Act, chokeholds and carotid holds would be banned at the federal level, along with no-knock warrants. The bill would improve police training and outline community investments for new policing practices in addition to establishing a national police misconduct database. The reform bill would also put an end to qualified immunity for police officers, which has been a point of contention for many lawmakers who argue individual officers and police departments would be exposed to lawsuits for their on-duty behavior.
“A deadline is important for Congress to get something done,” Arthur Ago, director of the Criminal Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the outlet. “What is more important is that there is a robust and sweeping bill that comes out of Congress that changes the way that policing is done in this country so that the changes that people have been advocating for during the last year are achieved.”
Some advocates are prioritizing local police reform since the approximate 18,000 police departments around the country are controlled by local and state governments. Others want the federal bill to direct funds away from police departments, and transfer military equipment away from local law enforcement agencies.
“We want substance,” Maurice Mitchell, a lead organizer for the Movement for Black Lives, told NBC. “We want real justice.” Mitchell told the outlet that the federal bill is only one part of the fight for real change in policing and that the proposed legislation “would not create the conditions where George Floyd would not have died.”
In the wake of Floyd’s murder, several cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, committed to lowering the budget for police departments. Others have piloted programs where mental health professionals respond to non-violent calls involving someone having a mental health crisis. Illinois became the first state to abolish the cash bail system that criminalizes poverty and maintains the disproportionate incarceration of Black people and other people of color.
Making investments in communities, addressing and ending systemic oppression, advocates argue, is needed to make real change.
“We’re going to continue to do our job and make sure that all of the folks who have passed, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, that their memories aren’t forgotten… and that our standards aren’t diluted based on what we think we could get politically versus what we know we deserve,” Mitchell said.
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