The National Association of Police Organizations on Monday slammed Democrats’ police reform bill as an “unworkable hodgepodge of conflicting laws and policy.”
“It’s clear when you read this that the authors either have very little knowledge of the conditions of law enforcement or else that they don’t particularly care,” said William Johnson, NAPO’s executive director, in a statement to The Washington Times.
Mr. Johnson pointed to a provision in the legislation that would limit the “qualified immunity,” which currently prevents police officers and government officials from being sued for misconduct while acting in their official capacity.
He said the legislation would open officers up to being criminally charged for mistakes that could be portrayed in the media as criminal wrongdoing.
Mr. Johnson said that officers could be punished and even imprisoned for acts they believed were lawful because the proposed reforms don’t outline how an officer could face criminal charges for their actions.
“Think about that,” he said. “You’ve got federal lawmakers proposing a federal law that says that even when the federal law is so unclear as to be unknowable by any reasonable officer, that officer can still go to prison for an unintentional act that unknowingly broke an unknown law.”
Joseph Lukaszek, the police chief in Hillside, Illinois, called the legislation “typical politics,” saying some of the reforms such as banning the use of chokeholds have already been implemented.
“There are laws already on books,” he said. “This is more of a political stunt that doesn’t get to the root cause of the problem.”
Mr. Lukaszek said he is concerned about limitations on qualified immunity, saying the bill doesn’t specify when an officer could face criminal charges or define what actions could put an officer in hot water.
“There has to be definition on both sides,” he said. “If an officer does A, then B happens. But if an officer violates someone’s civil rights they shouldn’t have qualified immunity anyway.”
Instead of police reform, Mr. Lukaszek called for weakening police unions which he said keeps officers accused of misconduct on police forces across the nation.
He said when instances of misconduct arise, the unions intervene to protect the officer, blocking departments from fixing mistakes.
“If an officer shows up drunk, I can’t fire them,” he said. “I have to send them to counseling, but I can’t find anything out about the counseling I’m paying them to get counseling for six weeks and I don’t know if they will still show up drunk. It is a game we keep playing because it is so difficult to fire someone.”
Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group, said the proposed reforms were “overdue” but criticized the bill for not going far enough to end the use of military-style equipment that has become popular among police departments in recent decades.
“Some of the proposed solutions fall short of what this moment and our communities demand and are required,” the group said in a statement. “Military weapons, tools and resources should be banned from police, qualified immunity should end entirely and all federal funding streams to state and local police departments should be urgently reexamined.
“On each of these points Congress must do better,” the statement said.
The NAPO, a coalition of police unions and associations, is the only law enforcement organization to comment on the police reform bill.
The National Black Police Association declined to comment on the legislation and the Major Cities Police Chief Association said it was still reviewing the proposal.