Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio said Thursday in a videoconference that he fully supports the Justice in Policing Act, introduced Monday by the House Judiciary Committee.
DeFazio called the bill, a step toward “bold, unprecedented reforms.”
DeFazio said the legislation would make extensive changes in policing, from banning potentially life-threatening choke holds to establishing a national misconduct database of law enforcement officers that would allow agencies to more fully investigate potential employees who have had experience at other agencies.
When the legislation was introduced, Judiciary Committee chair Karen Bass, D-California, said, “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new movement in our country with thousands coming together in every state marching to demand a change that ends police brutality, holds police officers accountable and calls for transparency.”
DeFazio said he has been impressed by the use of body cameras and the legislations will require federal officers to utilize them. Marked federal police vehicles will also have to have dashboard cameras.
“We cannot mandate local police departments, but we can mandate their use by federal officers,” DeFazio said.
Portions of the 126-page bill include:
— Bans no-knock warrants in federal drug cases.
— Requires that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to implement de-escalation techniques. The legislation would change the standard of whether use of force was “reasonable” to whether it was “necessary.”
— Limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
— The bill prohibits racial and religious profiling, mandates training about profiling for all law enforcement and requires all law enforcement to collect data on investigatory activities.
— Supports individual community development of community-based programs to deal with non-violent situations, such as mental health issues.
— Would require a national law enforcement accreditation system.
— Would make lynching a federal crime.
DeFazio praised the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training and said the bill would make such a system a standard in all states.
“Oregon has an esteemed police academy, but a lot of states don’t,” DeFazio said. “There is virtually no training in some states.”
When asked about the movement to “defund” law enforcement agencies, DeFazio said he believes it is important to shift some funding to community policing programs, but there is a need for a well-trained law enforcement presence in small communities or large cities.
He pointed to counties where law enforcement agencies have been basically disbanded due to budget cuts and what has replaced them has been “vigilantism”.
DeFazio said he has been impressed by communities where racial equality protests have been peaceful.
“Lawful, peaceful protests are a great way to bring about change,” DeFazio said. “In my generation, it was about the Vietnam War and before that, it was the Civil Rights movement. I still serve with John Lewis, a great civil rights leader. He was beaten to the ground and never lifted a hand. His non-violent protest worked.”
DeFazio said that unfortunately, the promise of civil rights has not been fully delivered for persons of color.
“It is reflected day-to-day and it is a shame,” he said. “Protesters are shining a light on this and we will see major changes in our country.”
DeFazio said some cities, like Portland, are already adopting police reforms.
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