Four Ferguson Related Bills in Congress. This week will likely be the last week of the 113th Congress. When Congress reconvenes again in January, Republicans will control both the House and the Senate.
But the last week of a Congress is always unpredictable and full of bills passing. Some pieces are ceremonial — others are substantive. You never know what legislative language might get tacked on to a bigger (read: spending) bill at the last minute as part of a last minute deal.
Below are four pieces of legislation related to the topic of the moment: Police brutality. Last year more people were killed by police in the U.S., 461, than in over thirty years. Oddly the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and others happen at a time when crime rates are at their lowest points in a generation. Below are four #Ferguson related pieces of legislation.
1. Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement (H.R. 5478) Rep. Hank Johnson, D-GA. A week after Michael Brown was shot to death by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, Rep. Hank Johnson announced he would draft a bill to end Pentagon Program 1033. Johnson was one of 8 Black Caucus members who voted against funding the DoD program in June. On September 16, Johnson dropped his bill, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014. There are four Republicans on this legislation.
“Before another small town’s police force gets a $750,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can’t maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on Pentagon’s 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America.”
Rep. Johnson’s bill would:
—— Prevent transfers of equipment inappropriate for local policing, such as high-caliber weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, armed drones, armored vehicles, and grenades or similar explosives,
—— End incentives to use equipment in circumstances when the use is unnecessary. Under the 1033 program, local police are required to use the equipment within a year.
—— Require that recipients certify that they can account for all equipment.
2. The Transparency in Policing Act (H.R. 5407) Rep. Al Green, D-TX. Green’s bill would, “require state and local law enforcement agencies that receive funds from the Department of Justice to acquire body cameras for use by their law enforcement officers.” Numerous police departments around the country have conducted studies on body cameras and they have gotten positive results. The bill was introduced on September 8, 2014 in the wake of the Ferguson story.
3. Death in Custody Reporting Act (H.R. 1447) Rep. Bobby Scott, D-VA. That this bill is necessary is a statement in itself. Believe it or not police departments are not required to report a death in custody. In 2013, 461 (we think…) people were killed by the police — the most in 30 years. This legislation has passed the House and cued up in the Senate and could pass this week (waiting for the Republicans…). The legislation requires police departments, “to report to the Attorney General on a quarterly basis certain information regarding the death of any person who is detained, arrested, en route to incarceration, or incarcerated in state or local facilities or a boot camp prison. Imposes penalties on states that fail to comply with such reporting requirements.” Scott dropped this bill in early 2013.
The bill also, “requires the head of each federal law enforcement agency to report to the Attorney General annually certain information regarding the death of any person who: (1) is detained or arrested by any officer of such agency (or by any state or local law enforcement officer for purposes of a federal law enforcement operation); or (2) is en route to be incarcerated or detained, or is incarcerated or detained, at any federal correctional facility or federal pretrial detention facility located within the United States or any other facility pursuant to a contract with or used by such agency.”
4. The End Racial Profiling Act (H.R. 2851) Rep. John Conyers/Sen. Ben Cardin. Conyers’ site reads, “this legislation is designed to protect minority communities by prohibiting the use of racial profiling by law enforcement officials.”
Even though AG Holder dropped new guidelines today no one has seen an actual copy. It’s likely the DOJ guidelines has what Conyers/Cardin’s bill contains but who knows. The bill was introduced in July 2013. A description on Conyers’ site reads, “Recent events demonstrate that racial profiling remains a divisive issue that strikes at the very foundation of our democracy. Though the death of Trayvon Martin was not the result of a law enforcement encounter, the issues of race and reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct are so closely linked in the minds of the public that his death cannot be separated from the law enforcement profiling debate.