Democrats will introduce a bill to root out systemic racism in police departments across the country with national legislation, increasing accountability and oversight of law enforcement, they said Sunday.
Rep. Karen Bass, California Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has drafted the Justice in Policing Act with Democratic Sens. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey and Kamala D. Harris of California.
They plan to introduce the legislation in both chambers this week, though it is unclear if the Republican-led Senate even will take up the bill.
“It is time for police culture in many departments to change and we believe the legislation will make a major step forward,” Ms. Bass told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
She said the legislation would require police officers to step in and address medical necessary situations, such as the one last week involving a police officer shoving an older man in Buffalo, New York. The man suffered a severe injury when he landed on his head.
Other officers stood by not reacting or helping the man, who was bleeding from the head on video. Ms. Bass said this legislation would require those cops to have intervened.
There would also be an emphasis on racial bias training and banning chokeholds — something Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat, has been pushing for since Eric Garner’s death in New York in 2014.
Mr. Jeffries, though, said no Republican has yet joined their legislation.
“I remain hopeful because we are seeing throughout the country that police commissioner after police commissioner and many rank and file members of police departments in city after city have made it clear that choke hold is an inappropriate and unnecessary tactic. I believe that it is an uncivilized, unconscionable and un-American tactic,” he told CNN.
The reform legislation would also criminalize lynching and create a police misconduct registry.
Ms. Bass pointed to Tamir Rice’s death in 2014 at the hands of Timothy Loehmann, a Cleveland police officer. She noted that the officer was fired by another police department before being hired in Cleveland.
Her bill also addresses grants for community-based organizations to fix local public safety issues, as some more progressive Democrats like Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota have called for defunding police departments altogether.
“Maybe this is an opportunity to re-envision public safety,” Ms. Bass said.
Rep. Val Demings, Florida Democrat and a former Orlando police chief, said local jurisdictions need to step in and make changes on their own instead of waiting for national reform.
She told ABC’s “This Week” they should ban neck restraints right away.
“Take a critical look at it yourselves. Do a deep dive and begin to change policies on your own,” Ms. Demings said.
She stressed the need for diversity within agencies and that legislation should address the use-of-force policies and training standards.
The actions of law enforcement are under heightened scrutiny as protests and riots broke out across the country in response to a white police officer in Minneapolis killing George Floyd, a black man, on Memorial Day.
Derek Chauvin, the officer, is seen in a video with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. Mr. Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder and three other Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting.