ICYMI – Civil Rights Groups And Other Leading Voices Against Police Violence Express Opposition To Senate Republicans’ Policing Reform Legislation

June 23, 2020

Washington, D.C.—  In response to Senate Republicans’ insufficient JUSTICE Act, several leading civil rights groups and attorneys released statements opposing the bill, saying the efforts will do nothing to make much needed changes to our country’s police departments. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that the bill Senate Republicans have proposed is lacking in substance and has not included the bipartisan talks that would get the Senate to a constructive starting point and falls far short of what is needed to respond to unwarranted brutality against Black Americans.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund: “The JUSTICE Act fails to respond to decades-long demands for police accountability and reforms. Instead, it allows federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to continue to use policing tactics that have been known to hurt communities of color, such as chokeholds and no-knock warrants. In this moment, we cannot support legislation that does not embody a strong accountability framework for police officers and other law enforcement who engage in misconduct as well as needed reforms to policing practices.” [Letter to Senators McConnell and Schumer, 6/22/20]

Reverend Al Sharpton, National Action Network: “S. 3985, or the JUSTICE Act, is a nonstarter in the conversation to truly make a difference when it comes to the pervasive issue of over-policing Black communities,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. “Republicans don’t seem to understand the voice nor the pain of Black America when their panacea comes in the form of pouring additional federal dollars for law enforcement without addressing the establishment of a misconduct registry, the militarization of police, a ban on chokeholds and the elimination of no-knock warrants and racial profiling practices.” [Press Release, 6/22/20]

Attorney Benjamin Crump (Attorney for the Families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice): “The Black community is tired of the lip service and is shocked that this $7 billion package can be thought of as legislation,” said Attorney Benjamin Crump. “We all know that as the Act is written, it is in direct contrast to the demands of the people, who have taken to the streets, to call for the reallocation of resources in order to improve social safety nets and public mental health programs.” [Press Release, 6/22/20]

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “The JUSTICE Act is an inadequate response to the decades of pain, hardship, and devastation that Black people have and continue to endure as a result of systemic racism and lax policies that fail to hold police accountable for misconduct. This bill falls woefully short of the comprehensive reform needed to address the current policing crisis and achieve meaningful law enforcement accountability. It is deeply problematic to meet this moment with a menial incremental approach that offers more funding to police, but few policies to effectively address the constant loss of Black lives at the hands of police. We therefore urge you to oppose the JUSTICE Act and vote no on the motion to proceed when this legislation is brought to the floor. [Letter to Senators, 6/19/20]

National Urban League President Marc Morial: “On behalf of the National Urban League, and its 90 affiliates in urban communities across 36 states and the District of Columbia, we urge you to vote no on the motion to proceed to S. 3985, the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. While there is no one-size-fits-all policy solution that will erase the impact of over 400 years of systemic racism in our criminal justice system, we need immediate change that will put an end to excessive policing and racial injustice in law enforcement. Meaningful reforms include: an end to the qualified immunity doctrine to hold police accountable, an end to discriminatory and abusive practices in policing by banning the use of chokeholds, no knock warrants, and racial profiling, a national police misconduct registry to hold police accountable for misconduct, an accreditation system for law enforcement agencies, and a national use of force standard. The JUSTICE Act includes none of these meaningful reforms and instead dances around the edges in a show of political posturing. In contrast, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act includes these and other important reforms that will address persistent, unchecked racial bias in policing and the of lack of accountability that is wreaking havoc on the Black community and should be immediately considered and passed.” [Letter to Senators, 6/22/20]

People For The American Way: “This is where the rubber hits the road. If Democrats are serious about ending police killings, they will vote ‘No’ on the motion to proceed on this watered-down, half-measure put forward by Republicans — and on the bill itself if it comes to a vote. People across the country are demanding real and consequential reforms, and they are expecting their senators to deliver. They will remember at election time who was principled enough to stand up for what’s right,” said PFAW President Ben Jealous. “This Republican ‘reform’ bill is a sham, and Senate Democrats should not play along. This bill doesn’t make basic changes to a broken policing system and won’t end the use of chokeholds like the one that killed George Floyd and no-knock warrants like the one that led to Breonna Taylor’s killing. It does nothing to end qualified immunity, a loophole that assures violent officers they won’t be held accountable to those they hurt. Democrats need to match their actions to their words. If they say they stand for an end to racist policing and police violence, they have to vote 'No' on this bill,” said PFAW Senior Director of Outreach and Public Engagement Diallo Brooks. [Press Release, 6/23/20]

Center for American Progress Action Fund: “The so-called JUSTICE Act is filled with exploitable loopholes and takes the same decades-old approach of funding police departments without requiring real accountability. Congress has tried incentive grants, studies and commissions, and most importantly, police departments already have access to federal resources to do much of what the JUSTICE Act provides.  This legislation is more of the same.  If the Senate is serious about police reform, they should turn their attention to the Justice in Policing Act.” [Letter to Senators, 6/23/20, Attachment]