Torres Signs onto Justice in Policing Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35) today became an original co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, legislation to address systemic racism in law enforcement and protect black and brown communities from discriminatory police practices.

Congresswoman Torres, who spent 17.5 years as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department, released the following statement:

“It is time for transformational change in America,” Rep. Torres said. “George Floyd is far from the first unarmed black man to die in police custody – it’s up to each of us to make sure that he is the last.

“As someone with long-standing ties to the law enforcement community, I know the badge comes with daunting challenges, and I know many who serve faithfully want nothing more than to keep their community safe,” Torres continued. “I also recognize that many agencies have failed to provide updated rules and training to help officers meet 21st century community policing needs.

“But none of that changes the fact that police officers should abide by the laws they enforce, and practices that undermine good faith in law enforcement like racial profiling and no-knock warrants have no place in our society,” Torres added. “To be a public servant is to be accountable to the community at large, including transparency into data about misconduct and use-of-force.

“Justice for the black and brown communities who’ve faced discrimination and racism since this nation’s founding starts with the systemic reforms I am co-sponsoring in Congress, but it won’t end there. To address a wound that cuts back for generations, we must invest in programs that help communities of color advance right now. From equity in education, to access to healthcare, to fair housing practices, the true test of this moment is about recognizing that these are all forms of discrimination and violence too. We can’t end just one of these injustices and expect to succeed – we must end them all.”

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 will:

Hold police accountable in our courts by:

Amending the mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct, from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;

Reform qualified immunity so that individuals are not entirely barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights;

Improve the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations;

Incentivize states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths through grants; and

Create best practices recommendations based on the Obama 21st Century Policing Task force.

 Improve transparency into policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force by: 

Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problem-officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability; and

Mandate state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.

Improve police training and practices by: 

Ending racial and religious profiling;

Mandating training on racial bias and the duty to intervene;

Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;

Banning chokeholds and carotid holds;

Changing the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was reasonable to whether the force was necessary;

Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;

Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and

Requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.

Make lynching a federal crime by:

Making it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws.

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