Sheila Jackson Lee reintroduces George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) reintroduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday, a bill that would create federal police reform.

Speaking to a crowd that included family members of those affected by police violence, Jackson Lee called the legislation “critical.”

“Far too many lives have been lost or forever changed due to unacceptable incidents of police brutality throughout our nation,” Jackson Lee said. “We cannot allow another American to be deprived of his or her humanity, dignity and constitutional right without taking action.”

Four years ago, a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes. Witnesses filmed the encounter as Floyd repeatedly told officers, “I can’t breathe.”

The words would become a rallying cry for worldwide protests as millions demanded police reform.

The act, named after the 46-year-old Black man, was first introduced by former Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), now mayor of Los Angeles.

The bill would lower the criminal intent standard to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution and limit qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer.

It would also limit the use of force and restrict the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds and carotid holds.

Though the bill passed the then-Democratically controlled House, the legislation stalled in the Senate, in part because of language on qualified immunity and no-knock warrants.

Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, blasted lawmakers who voted against the bill.

“If they can make federal laws to protect the bald eagle, they can make it a federal law to protect people of color,” Floyd said.

Floyd invoked the names of Tyre Nichols, Stephon Clark, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and Roger Fortson — other Black Americans who were killed by white Americans, including law enforcement.

“Everything that’s going on across America, this has been happening for 400 years,” Floyd said. “Frederick Douglass said that there’s no struggle if there’s no progress being made. Well I’m tired of struggling. I want to see progress.”

“They say this is the land of the free, home of the brave … and every time you look up, you see people being murdered every day for no reason,” Floyd added.

Though Black Americans account for only about 14 percent of the population, they make up 23 percent of those killed by police, Jackson Lee said.

“We are well aware of the pain you have experienced,” Jackson Lee said to the families. “But just because we are aware of your pain does not mean we do not understand the value of law enforcement.”

The legislation has the support of President Biden, who has previously called on Congress to pass police reform.

“We know that implementing real and lasting change at the state and local levels requires Congress to act,” Biden said last year. “I will continue to do everything in my power to fight for police accountability and urge Congress to pass meaningful police reform and send it to my desk. I will sign it.”

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