Will Congress Consider Policing Legislation?

Coronavirus-related economic relief legislation has occupied the Hill for months, but the Democratic proposal unveiled Monday morning signaled a sharp turn toward racial justice issues in response to nationwide protests.

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which has more than 200 Democratic cosponsors in the House and Senate, proposed sweeping changes to policing in the U.S., such as:

  • Banning the use of chokeholds
  • Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level
  • Requiring racial bias training for police
  • Prohibiting racial profiling
  • Creating a national police misconduct registry.

The bill was co-authored by Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Republican legislators have acknowledged issues of police brutality— Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) notably marched with protestors this weekend—but whether they will take up the bill remains unclear. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has expressed interest in holding a hearing June 16 on police use of force, but he has not pledged to consider legislation on the matter.

While the president advocates for law and order, presumptive Democratic challenger Joe Biden has committed to creating a national police oversight commission.

But Biden faces questions for authoring the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which many blame for dramatically increasing incarceration rates, especially among black Americans.