Legislation Focuses on Police Reform, Accountability, and TransparencySmith Cosponsors JUSTICE Act
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is an original cosponsor of the JUSTICE Act, introduced in the House of Representatives today, which he says is “designed to ensure greater transparency and accountability in policing in order to build safer communities.”
Smith said: “The murder of George Floyd while in custody by a Minneapolis police officer demands justice and has inspired a fresh and comprehensive look at crime and policing.
“I watched the video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd who pleaded ‘I can’t breathe’ with horror and disbelief. Chauvin not only betrayed his solemn duty to serve and protect but he betrayed, as well, police officers throughout the nation who serve with great honor and valor and make enormous sacrifices to protect the innocent and enforce the law.
“The JUSTICE Act is a serious, comprehensive and balanced reform initiative—an important step forward.”
Smith pointed out that the legislation includes new funding of $225 million for improved police training—including best practices for violence de-escalation and alternatives to the use of force—which will likely reduce injury or death to both police officers and criminal suspects. The training also includes the most effective approaches to suspects with mental health conditions.
According to Smith, the legislation authorizes a $500 million matching grant program to help police departments purchase body-worn cameras and the necessary technology and training to ensure their optimal use and conditions eligibility for this funding on criteria including usage at all times when an officer arrests or detains anyone.
Smith highlighted the importance of bodycams noting that studies have shown that the use of body-worn cameras can reduce complaints against officers by up to 90 percent and decrease officers use of force by 60 percent.
The JUSTICE ACT provides another $500 million for duty-to-intervene training and directs the Attorney General in consultation with state and local governments, and organizations representing rank and file law enforcement officers to develop training curriculum on the duty of a law enforcement officer to intervene when another officer engages in excessive use of force.
“Had any one of the three officers on the scene in Minneapolis intervened when George Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, his life could have been saved,” Smith added.
He said reforms also include maintaining and appropriately sharing disciplinary records for officer hiring, use of force reporting to the FBI, no knock warrant reporting, incentivizing chokehold bans and increased penalties for false police reports.
The JUSTICE Act empowers the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program to hire recruiters and enroll candidates in law enforcement academies to ensure racial and demographic representation similar to the community served and funds an education program for law enforcement on racism produced by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History.
The bill makes lynching a federal crime.
The legislation also creates the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys which will study and issue a wide-ranging report on conditions affecting Black men and boys, including homicide rates, arrest and incarceration rates, poverty, violence, fatherhood, mentorship, drug abuse, death rates, disparate income and wealth levels, school performance in all grade levels and health issues and will make recommendations to address these issues.