First #Ferguson Bill Passes Congress: Police Must Report Deaths in Custody to DOJ

First #Ferguson Bill Passes Congress: Police Must Report Deaths in Custody to DOJ

Bobby Scott
Rep. Bobby Scott

First Piece of #Ferguson Related Legislation Passes Congress and Will Become Law. H.R. 1447, the Death in Custody Reporting Act, authored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), passed the Senate (Wednesday) tonight and is on its way to be signed into law.  The bill passed the House a year ago in December 2013.  (Update: The President signed Death in Custody into law on December 18.)

The legislation requires police departments to report deaths in police custody to the Department of Justice. The bill passed the House before Eric Garner and Michael Brown were killed by police and their deaths made national headlines.

Rep. Scott’s bill requires states and federal law enforcement agencies to report details of deaths in custody to the Department of Justice.  This includes demographic data and the circumstances of the death and whether the death occurred in police custody or during arrest. The bill further requires the Attorney General to study the information gathered and provide suggestions to reduce the number of deaths in police custody.

Senator Leahy, as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, signs Scott’s Death in Custody bill on December 12 at the Capitol before it is sent to the White House.

Rep. Scott is the most senior Democrat on the House Judiciary subcommittee on Crime.  This bill would likely have never passed without the recent Ferguson related demonstrations and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  It passed the House last year in December and then sat waiting for attention — just recently it received new energy. 

READ H.R. 1447 – The Death in Custody Reporting Act, here.

In 2000, Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which required states to provide info any time a person dies during an arrest.  But the Act expired in 2006.  Since then, DoJ has not had access to data on on deaths in police custody.  With a do-nothing Congress that is continuously mired in gridlock, few lawmakers were focused on the legislation.  But then the stories of Brown and Garner made national headlines.  

Scott’s bill was pushed in the Senate by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  H.R. 1447 was passed by unanimous consent meaning there were no major objections from anyone in either party. Rare.  No one can believe that this Congress actually passes useful laws (understandable…) so the video of H.R. 1447 passing via UC on Wednesday evening is at bottom.

In 2013, 461 (we think…) people were killed by the police — the most in 30 years. Scott dropped the Death In Custody Reporting Act in early 2013.  

Yesterday, Black Caucus members John Conyers (D-MI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) called for in-depth congressional hearings into the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Other Ferguson related bills can be seen here.