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US Democrats unveil sweeping police reform law

June 8, 2020

Democratic lawmakers have announced a sweeping package of legislation aimed at ending police brutality and racial injustice. Police must be "accountable to the public," said the head of the Congressional Black Caucus.

US Congress moment of silence - Washington
Image: picture alliance / abaca

US Democratic lawmakers on Monday took a knee in the Capitol building before unveiling sweeping legislation aimed at combating police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd's death in custody.

The draft legislation aims to outlaw the use of chokeholds by law enforcement agents, restrict the use of legal force and allow victims of police misconduct to sue the relevant authorities, among other measures to quell racial injustice in US law enforcement.

"A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession that requires highly trained officers who are accountable to the public," said US Representative Karen Bass, who serves as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Bass said the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would "hold abusive law enforcement officers accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and our communities."

The draft legislation also includes a federal anti-lynching bill that had stalled in Congress.

It is unclear whether Republican lawmakers will support the legislation, which can only become law if it clears the Republican-controlled Senate and Donald Trump's desk. At least one Republican senator, Mike Lee of Utah, has said he would consider reviewing the bill before deciding.

Read more: How US police avoid scrutiny and keep power

Shift towards community

The death of Floyd, an African American, during an arrest has triggered a nationwide protest movement calling for extensive change to policing in the US.

The draft bill does not seek to defund law enforcement agencies, considered a key demand from the protest movement's most vocal supporters. However, it does focus on shifting funding priorities and expanding resources for community engagement.

"We have confused having safe communities with hiring more cops on the streets … when in fact the real way to achieve safe and healthy communities is to invest in these communities," said US Senator Kamala Harris, who briefly ran for the Democrats' presidential nomination.

US President Donald Trump said the Democrats "want to Defund and Abandon our Police" in a tweet published shortly after the bill was unveiled. Critics, including his former Cabinet members, have accused Trump of deliberately seeking to divide the country.

ls/msh (Reuters, AP)

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