Human Rights Campaign Urges Congress to Address Police Reform and Accountability

by HRC staff

Top of police car with lights on at night

Post submitted by Viet Tran (he/him/they/them), former HRC Press Secretary

HRC urges Congress to act expeditiously and adopt legislative reforms that address over policing, police brutality, misconduct and harassment affecting Black people throughout the nation.

Today, the Human Rights Campaign urges Congress to act expeditiously and adopt legislative reforms that address over policing, police brutality, misconduct and harassment affecting Black people throughout the nation.

“It’s time that Congress takes action and passes meaningful police reform and accountability legislation to rectify a legacy of white supremacy and anti-Black racism that continues to lead to police violence and killing of Black people across the country,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “The Justice in Policing Act contains critical federal reforms that are an important step. Thank you to Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Bass, Chairman Nadler, and Senators Booker and Harris, for their leadership to quickly address this pressing issue.”

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 reflects many of the core priorities identified by HRC and more than 400+ organizations pushing congressional leadership to immediately take up federal reforms to address policing. These reforms — which are outlined in a letter with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights —  include:

  1. Require a federal standard that use of force be reserved for only when necessary as a last resort after exhausting reasonable options and incentivize states through federal funding mechanisms to implement this standard; require the use of de-escalation techniques and the duty to intervene; ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against individuals who only verbally confront officers or against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves; and require all officers to accurately report all uses of force;
  2. Prohibit all maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, including neck holds, chokeholds and similar excessive force, deeming the use of such force a federal civil rights violation;
  3. Prohibit racial profiling and require robust data collection on police-community encounters and law enforcement activities. Data should capture all demographic categories and be disaggregated;
  4. Eliminate federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement;
  5. Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants, especially for drug searches;
  6. Change the 18 U.S.C. Sec. 242 mens rea requirement from willfulness to recklessness, permitting prosecutors to successfully hold law enforcement accountable for the deprivation of civil rights and civil liberties;
  7. Develop a national public database that would cover all police agencies in the United States and its territories, similar to the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training’s National Decertification Index,which would compile the names of officers who have had their licenses revoked due to misconduct, including but not limited to domestic violence, sexual violence, assault and harassment, criminal offense against minors, excessive use of force, violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242; perjury, falsifying a police report or planting and destroying evidence and deadly physical assault; as well as terminations and complaints against the officers; and
  8. End the qualified immunity doctrine which prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law. Qualified immunity, a defense that shields officials from being sued, has been interpreted by courts so broadly that it allows officers to engage in unconstitutional acts with impunity.