Progress Since George Floyd: Police Reform

In my previous blog post, I wondered what was different about George Floyd’s death that finally caused people to mobilize and demand change, given there had been so many others before him. I mentioned that progress had been made since the incident, but what progress, exactly?

This blog post covers the key areas of progress made in policing the U.S. since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Please note: This list is not all-inclusive and includes information as current as the date of this blog post.

Key Police Reform Progress Across the U.S.

Bills Introduced After George Floyd’s Death

George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020

  • Addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability and includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection, and to eliminate discriminatory policing practices
  • Facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations (e.g., excessive use of force) by state and local law enforcement
  • Lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution
  • Limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer
  • Authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination
  • Creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct
  • Establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels
  • Establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, including to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras
  • The bill establishes new requirements for law enforcement officers and agencies, including to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to wear body cameras

George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2020

  • Mandates all local, state, and federal law enforcement bodies report data to the Justice Department on uses of deadly force involving police officers
  • Gives federal grants to law enforcement agencies which devise new programs for oversight or hiring, such as bringing on more diverse officers and agents
  • Creates a federal task force to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of law enforcement agencies
  • Creates a set of federal minimum standards for police departments, standards which do not currently exist

Eric Garner Excessive Force Prevention Act of 2019

  • Modifies the criminal civil rights statute that prohibits the deprivation of rights under color of law
  • Bars the application of different punishments, pains, or penalties based on an individual’s alien status, color, or race
  • Specifies that the application of any pressure to a person’s throat or windpipe which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air (e.g., a chokehold) constitutes a punishment, pain, or penalty

Restoration of Civil Rights Act

  • Eliminates the “qualified immunity” defense for law enforcement, a doctrine that, in theory, shields government officials from being held personally liable for money damages for constitutional violations under federal law, so long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law; in practice, it’s been interpreted by courts to allow immunity from a wide range of lawsuits, including excessive force by police
  • Explicitly grants the right to sue a state or state official for a federal constitutional violation
  • Allows another Justice Department attorney from another jurisdiction to potentially prosecute it instead if a local U.S. attorney working on behalf of the Justice Department in a certain jurisdiction refuses to prosecute a case, an issue that came up in 2019, when New York prosecutors declined to prosecute police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner

Key City and Statewide Changes

Atlanta, GA

  • Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is keeping her vow to conduct a “top to bottom review” of the city’s police department, saying the department changes will come quickly
  • She is placing an emphasis on de-escalation training
  • The Police Executive Research Forum, created in 1976 to show police alternative methods in public safety, will be paid by the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a coalition of CEOs and civic leaders who regularly communicate with Mayor Bottoms

Louisville, KY

  • The City Council unanimously passed “Breonna’s Law” that banned unannounced police raids known as “no-knock warrants” in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor lived

Minneapolis, MN

  • Minneapolis City Council forced the police department to ban chokeholds and neck restraints
  • The Council also approved a 2021 budget plan agreeing to make police budget cuts
  • Of the approved $1.5 billion budget, at least $400,000 will be dedicated to the Minneapolis Forward Rebuild Resilient initiative
  • $19 million will be eliminated from the $179 million policing budget, including $8 million in direct cuts to the police department

New Jersey

  • Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the state will ban police departments from using chokeholds, carotid artery restraints or similar tactics
  • Police officers who do use these tactics and cause a subject’s death or injury will face criminal liability

New York City, NY

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio worked with City Council to shift funding from NYPD to other sectors of the city’s budget
  • Money will be taken from the NYPD budget and given to youth development and social services for communities of color
  • NYC will also shift enforcement of street fairs out of the NYPD’s jurisdiction
  • Mayor de Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray announced a pilot project using mental health professionals instead of police in response to 911 calls that may be mental health emergencies
  • For the first time in New York City’s history, mental health and medical experts will be the default response to 911 mental health calls in two high-need communities

New York State

  • State legislature voted to repeal 50-A, part of a provision that shielded police disciplinary records from the public
  • Now, officers must disclose personnel records used to evaluate performance
  • The legislation also bans officers from using chokeholds, prohibits false race-based 911 calls and appoints the state attorney general to be an independent prosecutor in any case where an officer shoots an unarmed person

Sacramento, CA

  • The Davis Police Department announced it would prohibit its officers from using chokeholds
  • They also put out other policy changes including one that requires an officer to intercede if they see a fellow officer using excessive force

Seattle, WA

  • Mayor Jenny Durkan established and resourced a Seattle Black Commission and invested $100 million in community-driven programs for black youths and adults
  • She has also called for an independent prosecutor at the state level to investigate and prosecute any police officers and update the department’s procedures for mass protests

Washington, D.C.

  • Legislation passed by the City Council bans police from using neck restraints on suspects
  • It also bans the use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesters
  • The Council also passed a bill that requires the mayor to release police body camera video from any police-involved death or serious use of force within three days of the incident, and requires the family members of the person involved in the incident to be the first to see the video

What About Your State?

If you’d like more information on bills and resolutions related to policing in your state, this database compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan association of state lawmakers, is a public resource that can be filtered by state and by topics including use of force, training, policing alternatives, and others.

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