The House of Representatives passed the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” (H.R. 7120) with a 220-212 vote along political party lines. This so-called “police reform bill” is being touted by President Biden, Democrats, and others as a way to reduce police brutality and increase accountability in law enforcement. However, the actual truth of the matter is far more suspect…
Major provisions of the bill only apply to federal law enforcement
The vast majority of the provisions of the bill target federal law enforcement—not the cops on the streets in communities across America. So it seems, politicians aren’t exactly telling the whole truth to the public. They’re touting the virtues, but hardly explaining the limited applicability. For example, mandating dash cameras and body cameras are both great ideas. But the vast majority of local law enforcement already does this. Federal law enforcement lacks in this area, in fact, many local agencies have ceased working with federal officers because federal policies have long since prohibited the use of body camneras. In other words, the bill highlights how politicians are now mandating what local police agencies have already been doing for years, and making it seem as though it is some sweeping reform.
Chokeholds are also banned, but again, only at the federal level. Chokeholds are a deadly-force option, so if anyone is using them, it’s likely because they are in a deadly force situation. But it’s worth mentioning that If President Biden wants to remove this response to deadly force from the Secret Service, he certainly can insist. However, just to be clear, this limits options the Secret Service and other federal law enforcement agencies have to respond to deadly force.
The bill also prohibits the use of no-knock warrants—by federal agencies only. Beyond the mistruths and misinformation that politicians keep telling the public, the United States Supreme Court approves of no-knock warrants signed by a judge in certain situations. Once again, the bill compromises the safety of federal officers, and would only do so at the local level if a police chief decides to change policy and counter-align with Supreme Court case law.
The use of deadly force standard has also been changed for federal law enforcement. Despite the precendent established by the Supreme Court in the past 33 years with the 4th Amendment “Reasonableness,” the new standard of this so-called reform bill attempts to delimit deadly force “only when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury” and “as a last resort.”
There are more problems with the new mandates than can be mentioned in this article alone. But any reasonable person should ask why is the current standard—applied by the highest court in the land—being altered? Have other landmark Supreme Court standards been changed by Congress without substance beyond what appears to be little more than political pandering? Fortunately, this aspect of the bill will very likely be deemed unconstitutional. And of course, aside from constitutionality, there is the fact that deviating from the standard will likely endanger the safety of our brothers and sisters behind a federal badge.
Besides, what does “only when necessary” actually mean? Who gets to judge that? The wording alone—never mind actually trying to apply such a standard to a deadly force situation—is so problematic and unrealistic that federal officers should look to bide their time behind desks just to be safe.
Local law enforcement leaders—be forewarned!
Granted, many of the mandates in the bill reflect “racial profiling” policies which have been implemented for years in local agencies. But that doesn’t mean local law enforcement leaders should simply ignore what’s going on here.
There are several provisions in the bill that would withhold federal grant funding to local agencies if they do not adopt policies. And it should be of no suprise that this includes revisions to the use of force outside of long-established Supreme Court standards. And of course, such funding is substantial, and many agencies depend upon federal funding to hire and train police officers, or purchase equipment that could never be done with the budget woes that most cities are experiencing.
Many other points of the bill could be debated here. But the most important thing is this: where’s the proof that any of this will actually improve law enforcement and public safety—and actually reduce crime?
It is going to take extraordinary police leadership to reject the absurd mandates that this legislation is likely to bring about, should it take effect. And it is going to take exceptional leadership to push back against mandates that draw upon political pandering, instead of long-established case law from even the highest court in America. We can only hope there are leaders who will reject the political nonsense handed down from high in Washington D.C. and follow what has been proven and necessary to fight crime—and prevent officers from criminal and civil punishment for doing their jobs and protecting themselves and the public from criminals and violence.