Washington, D.C. – Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) continued pushing for what he calls “meaningful police reform” as he voted against proceeding to debate the GOP-led Justice Act, legislation that he called a “check in the box” and would do very little to reform policing.
Brown took to the Senate floor to call for passage instead the Justice in Policing Act, what he says is a “Comprehensive package.” He helped introduced the bill earlier this month, “To put important policing reforms into place, help end racial profiling in the criminal justice system and work to improve police-community relations.”
“I’m not willing to stand here and participate in a political charade – to vote on something that won’t lead to real change, just to check a box and provide politicians with a talking point. It’s an insult to Black families who have been fed empty promise after empty promise for generations,” said Brown. “The Justice in Policing Act would create real change in our justice system, and communities across the country can’t afford us to not act on this meaningful legislation. We need to listen to the Black voices leading these calls for justice, and take real action.”
Democrats on Wednesday denied Republicans the votes needed to pass the Senate GOP’s policing reform bill and send it to the House. Sixty votes were needed. The vote was 55-45.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), a co-sponsor of the Justice act released a statement saying, “The fact that Senate Democrats voted to block debate and an open amendment process on meaningful police reforms is outrageous and unacceptable. Over the last month we’ve continued to see egregious examples of injustice and violence against people of color. Americans want to see progress on meaningful police reform.”
Brown says the Justice in Policing Act which he supports would:
- Ban chokeholds, carotid holds, and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
- Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
- Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal officers and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
- Create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Task force on 21st Century policing.
- Make important legal reforms to increase police accountability and transparency.
The package also includes Brown’s End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, which hs said would better enforce equal protection laws and work to end racial profiling in the criminal justice system.
Brown took to the Senate floor earlier this month, condemning what he characterized as President Trump’s “violent response” to protests of the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other victims of racist police brutality and systemic injustice. Brown pointed out that Black and Brown communities have been and remain marginalized and targeted and that protests sweeping Ohio and the nation are calling for an end to systemic racism.
Portman’s statement also said, “The JUSTICE Act takes responsible steps toward improving the collection of data on violence by and against law enforcement, providing funding to increase the use of body cameras, and increasing transparency and accountability while strengthening and reforming police training methods and hiring practices. I hope my Democratic colleagues will reconsider their decision and join us in working towards real reform on this issue.”
Brown’s remarks on the Senate Floor, as prepared for delivery, are below:
Thousands of Americans are peacefully protesting in communities all across the country, demanding our country do better.
The protests are an expression of grief, for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks and so many other Black Americans murdered by the people who were supposed to protect them.
They’re an expression of frustration and anger, that it’s 2020 – a century and a half after the official end of slavery, 55 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act – and still Black people are fighting the same fight.
And they’re also an expression of hope and patriotism. Demanding our country do better, demanding we live up to our founding ideals is one of the most patriotic things anyone can do.
We need to listen to the Black voices leading these calls for justice, and take real action.
That’s what Democrats want to do. My colleagues Senator Harris and Senator Booker in the Senate, and the CBC in the House, have led our bicameral efforts, and have a serious plan: the Justice in Policing Act.
It would implement real, meaningful reforms and actually hold police accountable. It makes it clear:
No more chokeholds. No more unchecked police misconduct. No more militarization of police misconduct.
Of course we know this isn’t the only thing we need to do – policing didn’t create institutional racism, it’s a product of it and often reinforces it, and we have a lot of work to do beyond this. But these reforms are an important start to making policing in our country more just.
The Justice in Policing Act would create real change in our justice system, and communities across the country can’t afford us to not act on this meaningful legislation.
What we cannot do, is pass something called “Police Reform” that does very little to actually reform policing – and then turn around and tell Black mothers and fathers whose children have been slain, “we solved it, our work here is done.”
I respect Senator Scott and I appreciate him coming to the table, and taking on this issue. I know he is fighting an uphill battle within his own caucus.
I want to work with him, and with anyone of either party on real solutions.
But I’m not willing to stand here and participate in a political charade – to vote on something that won’t lead to real change, just to check a box and provide politicians with a talking point.
It’s an insult to Black families who have been fed empty promise after empty promise for generations.
We need to listen to the communities that suffer the most at the hands of police violence, and they all agree: the Senate Republican bill is simply not serious.
It won’t fix the problems, and we’ll be right back here, sooner rather than later.
Major civil rights groups all oppose this bill – the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Urban Leagues, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
It doesn’t ban no-knock warrants. The Justice in Policing Act does.
It doesn’t stop the militarization of police departments. The Justice in Policing Act does.
It doesn’t create a national misconduct registry. The Justice in Policing Act does.
It doesn’t ban chokeholds. The Justice in Policing Act does.
These are all steps that civil rights groups have said are critical to any reform effort. This is the bare minimum we should be doing.
Really all this bill offers is more studies of questions we already know the answers to.
We don’t need more studies, more task forces, more delaying tactics.
We need real accountability.
The Justice Act could even put us in danger of moving in the opposite direction, by providing more funding for policing without adequate strings attached and without a similar investment in community supports.
The NAACP says this bill, quote, “ignores the public demands to reimagine public safety by shrinking the purview of law enforcement and providing better funding to agencies equipped to address the critical needs of communities such as social services, mental health services, and education.”
The Urban League says this bill, “dances around the edges in a show of political posturing.”
We refuse to engage in that political posturing.
We refuse to act like this is just a box we can check, so we can move on.
We refuse to insult Black Americans by pretending this is a serious effort.
People have suffered too long for that.
We have been here before. This isn’t the first wave of protests, or the second.
In 2014, after the murders of Tamir Rice in my city, in Cleveland, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, President Obama and his administration laid important groundwork for reform.
They studied what reforms would be most effective, they instituted consent decrees with cities to hold departments accountable, and they created a roadmap we could follow.
But President Trump undid much of the progress the Obama Administration made.
The Urban League put out a plan for reform in 2014, after Michael Brown’s murder.
Since then, nearly 1,300 Black men and women have been fatally shot by police.
This bill does nothing to stop the practices that killed them.
Black Americans know their lives are put in danger by policing every day. Let’s listen to them. People all around the country – Black and white and brown, in small towns and big cities, young and old – are all listening, waking up, and joining the calls for change.
Let’s follow their lead. Let’s actually hear the voices that have been silenced for too long.
I urge my colleagues to vote “no,” and instead work with us on real, meaningful reform to transform our public safety system into one that actually keeps people safe.