What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?

THE US House of Representatives has passed a sweeping policing reform bill, named in honour of George Floyd, for the second time.

Around nine months after Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, and just days before former police officer Derek Chauvin goes on trial on a state murder charge in relation to his death, lawmakers have voted to approve the reform measure 220-212 along party lines.

What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act? 

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was created just a month after 46-year-old Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis, died when he was brutally arrested by police and an officer knelt on his neck and back.

A medical examiner on June 1 classified George Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying his heart stopped as police restrained him and compressed his neck.

The police officers involved had claimed he "physically resisted officers" while possibly under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.

Footage of the incident posted to social media shows Floyd groaning in pain and saying repeatedly "I can't breathe" to Chauvin, while he was kneeling on his neck.

The cop had his other knee on Floyd's back, near where his hands were handcuffed.

In the shocking footage, Floyd can also be heard saying "Don't kill me!" before he becomes motionless with his eyes closed.

The police reform bill will create national standards for policing in an attempt to increase accountability, as well as banning chokeholds and getting rid of “qualified immunity” for law enforcement.

 The Act was written by Democratic Representative Karen Bass and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and introduced into the House in June last year.

The House had passed a version of the bill shortly after, but it was not taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate.

While the Democrats now have the support of the White House, and a slight edge in the Senate, they would still have to win over 10 Republicans, at the minimum, to overcome a filibuster and pass the measure. 

Representative Karen Bass told reporters on Wednesday: “We are still trying to transform policing in the United States”.

“We will be able to have a bipartisan bill in the Senate that will reach President Biden's desk,” she said.

Why has the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act been introduced?

The legislation has been introduced in a bid to increase accountability of police officers and work to root out racial bias in policing.

The death of George Floyd in police custody last year prompted nationwide calls to reform policing and particularly, to overhaul qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that critics say shields law enforcement from accountability.

His killing also sparked weeks of nationwide protests, as well as protests worldwide. Many of these were led by Black Lives Matter activists.

The bill includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection and eliminate discriminatory policing practices.

It facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations, like excessive use of force, by state and local law enforcement.

As well as limiting qualified immunity as a defense to liability, it also lowers the criminal  intent standard to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution.

The bill also authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination.

Under the bill a national registry would be created to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct.

It would establish a framework to prevent racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels, and create new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies – including to report data on use-of-force incidents, obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras.

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