When there is a need for a major reform in our country, listening is the starting point for sound change.  Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss proposed federal policy changes to address police use of force at a Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing.  The input of those who have worked closely on this issue is instrumental as we work to enact legislation to rebuild the lost confidence in many institutions designed for the purposes of keeping communities safe.

The vast majority of law enforcement officers are hard-working Americans who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe.  Unfortunately, we have seen several instances of horrific and inexcusable conduct by some very bad actors under the guise of law enforcement.  Reforms are needed, as well as greater accountability and transparency, to help eliminate racial inequality and rebuild the trust all Americans deserve to have in these important institutions. 

During the hearing, I heard recommendations of how to approach this issue on the federal level.  The discussion I had with Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Co-Founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity; Melvin Carter, Mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_YoFR3u0iM&feature=youtu.be.  I heard clearly the need for accountability improvements, more oversight tools and enhanced resources.  Better enabling the removal of bad-actor law enforcement officers is also among requested reforms.     

I joined Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) and 45 of my Senate colleagues, including fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch, in introducing S.3985, the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act.  This legislation would improve and reform policing practices, accountability and transparency.  The JUSTICE Act would:

Law Enforcement Reform

  • Strengthen the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, and providing law enforcement with new funding to do so;
  • Reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the demographics of police departments more closely match the communities they serve;
  • Ensure a hiring department has access to view all prior disciplinary records of the officer in consideration;

Accountability

  • Provide grants for more body-worn cameras, as well as penalties for failing to ensure correct usage;
  • Require a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension and discipline of bad-actor law enforcement officers;

Transparency

  • Require all police jurisdictions nationwide to report to the Federal Bureau of Investigations instances of use-of-force and discharge of an officer’s weapon; and
  • Require new reporting on the issuance of no knock warrants.

Additionally, the JUSTICE Act will make lynching a federal crime and will create two commissions to study and offer solutions on a broader range of challenges facing Black Americans and the criminal justice system as a whole.  Text and a section-by-section of the JUSTICE Act can be found on my website at www.crapo.senate.gov.  I look forward to enactment of this legislation to help ensure justice for all.

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