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Congressman Lipinski Statement on the Passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

“Today, I voted to pass H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. There is a broad consensus that we should take action to institute policing reforms in the U.S. While I believe this bill has some flaws, it is certainly a good first step in what I hope, despite yesterday’s actions in the Senate, will be a bipartisan process that will produce meaningful reforms that make policing more just and more effective. 

The current impetus for reforming policing and addressing racial injustice arose from the recent tragic deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police officers. It is certainly the case that we must re-commit ourselves to rooting out racism everywhere in our nation. We have made tremendous progress, but we have more to do, and reforms to policing can help us move forward. Policing must be more just and safe for all Americans. This includes police officers. Serving as a police officer is incredibly difficult, especially in cities like Chicago which saw over 100 people shot this past weekend, at least 14 fatally, including 5 children. We need to have the best people with the best training as police officers, working to keep our communities safe.  Understanding the broad policy implications is important to ensure we protect our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, which have the greatest need for good policing. 

As we consider the details in legislation making reforms to policing, we must make sure that we consider the short- and long-range impacts. While we need to better protect members of the public from police abuse, we need policies that will enable law enforcement agencies to recruit and train diverse, top tier candidates who are capable of deescalating situations, challenging implicit bias, and acting with cultural competence in their interactions to foster greater public trust and public safety. We cannot afford to implement policies that unintentionally discourage good people from entering or staying in law enforcement.

While it is critical that police officers are held accountable for their actions, I do have concerns about some unintended consequences associated with a handful of the provisions in this bill. The establishment of The National Police Misconduct Registry to promote awareness and information sharing across law enforcement entities is a needed reform to help identify problematic officers and create greater accountability. However, this registry would include items such as complaints where an officer has been exonerated, unfounded accusations, and other information which could be damaging to good officers. 

Additionally, it is important that we more fully consider what will happen not only to police officers but also municipalities if we completely eliminate “qualified immunity” as contained in this bill. Again, I understand the need for individual accountability, but I have heard concerns from police departments and government entities that this could impact the ability to recruit and retain high-quality officers, have wide-ranging financial implications for federal, state, and local governments, and have legal implications down the road beyond law enforcement for other government employees who make discretionary decisions. Also, I am concerned that the prohibitions on the transfer of military equipment to police departments is overly broad and could hurt the ability of some departments to be adequately resourced. 

The actions by police officers that we saw in the video of George Floyd’s death rightfully sparked outrage. We must make sure that this outrage results in action that may save lives in the future and make policing better. I look forward to continuing to work with members of both parties to craft legislation that can make policing more just and equitable for all Americans. We cannot allow partisan politics to once again destroy an opportunity for needed action. 

 

 

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