A package of police reforms meant to boost law enforcement transparency and ban the use of chokeholds was approved Thursday evening by the House of Representatives.
The measures were approved roughly a month after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.
The incident sparked national protests and demonstrations, drawing calls for reforming policing in the country as well as greater scrutiny for racial inequality and discrimination.
“Americans in communities of all colors are calling out and demanding action to address racial injustice in our country. Today, the House took an important step in that direction by increasing transparency and accountability in policing," said Rep. Antonio Delgado, a Democrat who represents the Hudson Valley. "I voted for the Justice in Policing Act to implement needed reforms around law enforcement, and I encourage the Senate to take up these overdue measures as soon as possible."
The bills include changes to federal prosecution of police misconduct standards and change qualified immunity so people are not barred from recovering damages when police are found to have violated their civil rights.
The measure also strengthened the Department of Justice's ability to investigate police abuse by granting the Civil Rights Division subpoena power, and gives state attorneys general the incentive to launch investigations.
A provision in the package also creates a registery of police misconduct, requiring law enforcement agencies to report use of force data by race, sex gender, and disability. No-knock warrants would be banned as well as chokeholds.
It remains to be seen if the package will be taken up by the Republican-led U.S. Senate.
In New York, state lawmakers bolstered the power of the state attorney general to investigate police-involved civilan deaths by codifying a special prosecutor office.
“People of our states demand and deserve full justice under the law,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said. “That means the law must work for them and that those who abuse power will be held accountable for their misdeeds. This bill is but one step, albeit a very important one, in a long road to delivering on the promise of equal protection and public safety afforded to all people in America. I strongly urge the Senate to pass this commonsense measure without delay.”
A package of police reforms earlier this month sailed through the New York state Legislature, adding criminal penalties for the use of choke holds and repealing a law that prevented the disclosure of police disciplinary records without a court order.