Last week, the Senate was slated to vote on Senator Tim Scott’s bill, S. 3985, the “Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act of 2020” or “JUSTICE ACT.”
As a co-sponsor of the House companion bill, this legislation was the right step to reform and restore trust with law enforcement. The JUSTICE Act maintains the federal government’s Constitutionally-limited role in local law enforcement decisions, while providing sensible reform, accountability and transparency needed to keep both citizens and officers safe.
It does this by leveraging Congress’ constitutional power of the purse and making grant funding contingent on law enforcement offices complying with provisions within the bill, including:
- Strengthen training methods and tactics in law enforcement jurisdictions, focusing on the de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene.
- Ensuring that police departments have access to candidates’ prior disciplinary records. This includes maintaining and properly sharing disciplinary records for officers during hiring consideration to ensure “bad apples” aren’t able to move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction without their previous record known.
- Requiring officers have body cameras, and the departments are both using them and the data properly and provide federal funding for departments to purchase camera equipment.
- Establishing police departments best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of officers.
Unfortunately, despite this bill being similar to and even including several Democrat members’ proposals, it was blocked by Senate Democrats from being considered or debated.
On Wednesday, without any Republican input and while blocking all Republican attempts to offer amendments, Speaker Pelosi held a vote on the House Democrats’ proposal, H.R. 7120, the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.”
This legislation is another Washington takeover of functions the U.S. Constitution has reserved to the 50 states. Scoring political wins at the expense of violating the Constitution is not the way to try to balance the scales of justice, protect lives and improve transparency and accountability. For these reasons, I voted against this legislation.
Congressman Daniel Webster represents The Villages in the U.S. House of Representatives.