On Wednesday, June 16, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Lankford (R-OK), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. The Senate Republican proposed legislation is in response to the national protest movement that has followed the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of police.
Last week House Democrats released proposed legislation. The Senate Republican legislation, the JUSTICE Act addresses long-term solutions that focuses on law enforcement reform, accountability, transparency, and other provisions specifically that attempt to:
• Strengthen the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, providing law enforcement with new funding to do so, and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds;
• reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve;
• ensure when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary records;
• more body cameras on the streets, and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly;
• require a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers;
• report when an officer has discharged his or her weapon or used force and where and why no knock warrants are used; and
• make lynching a federal crime (legislation that is currently stalled in the Senate).
Senator Scott, the Congress’s only black Republican led efforts on the JUSTICE Act. He has shared in interviews that this issue is very personal to him as an African American and that he has been stopped by police several times in one year even as an elected official. His experience is common among many African Americans that are often stopped by law enforcement for driving while black. He stated that:
“Now is the time for reform. The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath made clear from sea to shining sea that action must be taken to rebuild lost trust between communities of color and law enforcement,” stated Senator Scott. “The JUSTICE Act takes smart, commonsense steps to address these issues, from ending the use of chokeholds and increasing the use of body worn cameras, to providing more resources for police departments to better train officers and make stronger hiring decisions.”