Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd! The world is focused on the policing in America because of it. Passions are running high. It makes it the right time to call YOUR senator to express your support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. If you’re already committed, please skip down to the sections that you need:
- tips for calling,
- suggestions for other things to do to support the bill, and
- links for contact information.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
On 24 February 2021, Rep. Karen Bass (D – CA, 37) introduced HR 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, in the House of Representatives. It was similar to a bill that had been considered in the previous Congress but never passed. The provisions of the bill are intended to improve policing in the country and reduce police violence against PoC, particularly Black Americans. In this Congress, the GQP has not introduced a smaller bill that they had proposed the previous year.
The bill has these provisions:
- make the prosecution of police misconduct easier,
- expand federal oversight into local police units,
- limit bias among officers, and
- change policing tactics
Unfortunately, these provisions can only enact changes at federal police agencies because state or local agencies are governed by state law. Out of the 18,000 police agencies in the country, only about a dozen are federal. So, while it cannot ban choke holds across the country, for example, it can provide incentives for state and local agencies to do so. But, it holds federal funds for policing as an incentive for state and local agencies to comply with its provisions. Essentially, if police departments don’t meet these standards, federal funding will be withheld.
Prosecuting Police Misconduct
The bill makes prosecuting police misconduct easier in two ways.
It changes the standard for proving police abuse of power.Currently, the federal law governing police use of force states that the prosecution must prove that the officer “willfully” acted to deny someone their “rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution.” Apparently, this is a high standard to meet. It lowers the standard to “knowingly or recklessly,” which means that the act was not an accident and realizing that the act could cause harm. By making the standard easier to meet, federal prosecutors are more likely to bring cases against offending officers.
It ends qualified immunity. Qualified immunity prevents federal officers from being sued as long as in the course of fulfilling their professional obligations they did not “violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known,” which as we’ve all seen has not been workable shielding officers from accountability for even the most reprehensible behavior.
It establishes a federal database on police misconduct. National databases on police misconduct have been maintained my private groups. The bill would require the DoJ to establish publicly accessible databases on the police use of force and misconduct allegations.
It grants subpoena powers for investigating police agencies. It allows the federal and state attorney general’s office to issue subpoenas when investigating “patterns or practices” of violating the Constitution. The number of these investigations would be public information.
It requires the AG to ensure state and local police departments meet federal standards and requirements. The AG would develop a uniform standards for state and local law enforcement agencies to meet, ensure that only agencies meeting these standards receive federal grant money, and review departmental accreditation standards. The AG would also create a task force to find allegations of misconduct and refer them to the proper investigative authority and report laws that interfere with investigations into misconduct and racial bias in policing to Congress.
It would disburse grants for improving and reforming policing. Grant money would be available to implement new standards and techniques for improving policing, fund community organizations, and promote hiring, training, and oversight.
Bias in Policing
The bill does three things to reduce the impact of racial bias on policing: (a) It makes racial profiling illegal. (b) It mandates racial bias training for federal law enforcement officers. And (c) it creates training program concerning racial profiling and racial bias.
Changes in Police Tactics
The bill makes several substantive changes to police tactics at the federal level and encourages states to pass laws enacting these federal changes as well.
- No knock warrants in drug cases are prohibited
- Chokeholds and carotid holds are prohibited. They are also classified as a civil rights violation.
- Use of force rules have been altered. Lethal force cannot be used unless all alternatives have been exhausted and harm to bystanders eliminated. Non-lethal force cannot be used unless all alternatives have been exhausted.
Transfers of military equipment is limited. The transfer of a number of military weapons and vehicles to police agencies would be prohibited, although waivers for certain vehicles would still be allowed. And, requests for transfers by state and local agencies would have to be made public. Weapons and vehicles banned by the bill would have to be returned if currently held by an agency. Any weapon or vehicle used during a violation of civil rights would have to be returned to the federal government, also. And, transferred weapons and vehicles could only be used for counterterrorism or general law enforcement and not for drug enforcement or border management.
Body camera regulations are stipulated. All federal officers are required to wear body cameras. The manner of their use is spelled out in regulations.
Sexual misconduct is now illegal. What, this isn’t a thing already? An AP study reported that 990 officers lost their licenses due to inappropriate sexual conduct between 2009 and 2014, but, apparently, it is not explicitly illegal in all states. At the federal level, sexual contact with detainees would be punishable by a fine and up to 15 years imprisonment. States are urged to adopt these measures as well.
HR 1280 – The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
- Sponsor: Rep. Karen Bass (D – CA, 37)
- Date of introduction: 24 February 2021
- Passed the House on 3 March 2021 on a 220-212 mostly party-line vote
- Received in the Senate on 9 March 2021
Call YOUR senators to express your support for these two bills even if it means modifying the filibuster. Following Indivisible’s lead, we’re tailoring our appeals to each of the five types of senators. Search through for the types that best fit each of your two senators.
Calling or Writing
Use this script when calling or writing your Members of Congress. Adapt as needed.
Regardless of the type of senator you have, they all should begin the same:
Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [STATE and LOCALITY].
I’m calling today to support the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. With the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, we finally seem to have momentum to do something to end the police misuse of force. Unfortunately, with each passing day we seem to have another instance of the police misuse of force against a Black American or an American of Color. We have tolerated the abuse of our fellow citizens long enough. Congress must act to limit the misuse of force by police.
Find your type of senator from the list below and continue with that script.
The Member of Leadership
We cannot allow opponents of police reform to dissuade us from the passage of this important bill. We cannot accept amendments that would limit the scope of the bill or be distracted by alternatives like that offered by Mitt Romney during the last Congress. We must pass this bill even if it means modifying the filibuster.
The Moderate Democrat
We know that the Republicans will brand everything that passes as far-left extremism. We cannot let such demagoguery stop us from doing what is right for the American people and finally taking a concrete step towards building a more perfect union. While we must appeal for bipartisanship, we must be prepared to proceed without it. This bill must pass without being watered down or limited.
The progressive Democrat
We greatly appreciate your support for police reform. We must not let our desire to get something done allow Republicans and moderates to water down the provisions of this bill in the name of compromise or bipartisanship. With the near daily reports of police misuse of force, we know that the time is now to protect communities of color from police abuse.
The conservative Democrat
Anytime the police misuse force against a citizen it is a violation of the Constitution. We can no longer tolerate this type of abuse against our citizens. This bill takes vital steps to help us protect our Constitutional rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Help pass this bill as it is written as a first step towards that goal.
As the trial of Derek Chauvin made abundantly clear, police misuse of force is a violation of our Constitutional rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. As the near daily reports of police brutality and murder of People of Color, police misuse of force is widespread. We need to make systemic change to prevent these violations of our rights. This bill needs to pass as it is as a first step towards that goal.
Thank you for your time and attention.
IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied.
The Starter Tweet
You may need to adjust the wording in the tweet because of your senator’s Twitter handle.
The near daily report of police misuse of force against PoC makes passing systemic police reform a necessity. This bill has the concepts and incentives we need to help make it happen. Pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Bill.Tweet
Tips for Calling
When you call your representative’s office, please remember the following:
- Only contact YOUR MoC! They only listen to their constituents and dismiss requests from non-constituents.Ask for the aide working on the policy-related issues.
- Be polite! No matter whose office you’re calling. No matter what their positions are. No matter how inflamed you are about the issue — and you should be very passionate — be polite.
- Remember that the people you are talking to are people! So, be nice.
- Call during business hours of the area code their office is in. Typically, that is 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
- Have a script or notes to follow so you don’t forget anything.
- Maybe call with friends. You know like a party.
I’ve heard back from readers that some MoC’s voice mail boxes are always full! It’s as if they don’t want to hear from their constituents. Kinda like those MoC’s who don’t hold town halls or other open forum meetings. Here are some other ways to contact your MoC:
In Addition to Calling
- in person visit, or what passes for in person during the time of #COVID19. Being in their office either in person or virtually and talking to the Congress person or a staff member is your best bet for getting your message heard.
- Send a postcard to their office. Nothing says I care like kicking it old school and using snail mail.
- Email their office. Lay out your concerns in a brief email and send it in. We all know how easy it is to email. Make sure you include the issue you are addressing in the subject line.
- Use the contact page on their website. This is the surest way of getting a message to them. Each MoC has an official government website and each has a contact page that comes with it automatically.
- Contact them using social media. It’s hard to break through all the noise on social media, but it can’t hurt to try given all the time we all spend using it. Be sure to tag your MoC’s when social mediaing about about a specific issue. Be clear and respectful, though, when addressing an issue that you want your MoC to act upon. Make sure you let them know you are a constituent.
- A form letter or petition. You see these on social media all the time. Text to this number and they’ll send a postcard. Sign the petition and they’ll deliver it. It makes it easier for you to do, and I guess it makes up for its lack of impact through its larger numbers? But, you wouldn’t be here reading this and thinking about calling your MoC if you were all about ease and comfort. There’s nothing easy, comforting, or comfortable about reading my syntactically garbled ranting snarky posts.
Coordination Makes an Impact
- Group Action. Visiting, calling, or mailing letters as a group has a bigger impact than just one person doing it, and it’s more fun. So, get your friends, neighbors, acquaintances, kidnap victims, whoever together and pass the phone around. Make it a day drinking game. Call in sick to work. It’s fun for the whole family!
- Join an Indivisible chapter. If you haven’t already joined an Indivisible chapter, consider doing it now. There are thousands of them dotted across the land. They sprouted and grew like invasive bamboo or mushrooms after 2017.
- Subscribe to Email Groups. I know those emails that claim to be from Elizabeth Warren, other political celebrities, or at least a real name are annoying, but they do help coordinate national action on issues. So, if a Congress person realizes that they just got a gazillion calls on issue X on the same day, then they know there’s a group that is pushing the issue and has voters behind it. See how that works for the anxious-to-be-re-elected Congress critter?
Film at 11:00
If you meet with your Congress person or staffer, film the interaction — this is where having a group comes in handy, one person talks, another one glares, and the third one films. So, if they are squirming or hemming and hawing or saying stupid stuff, you could go viral, and isn’t that everyone’s dream in this age of social media?
Use the Local Press
Again, if you’re going down as a large group, the press will cover it. If you’ve got a large phoning party, the press will cover it. And, you know who reads the local press? Congress folk, do, or at least their interns do. If you make the hometown newspaper or TV news, you’ve got that Congress person’s attention! So, go on, grab ’em by the press!
Useful links for getting the contact information for your MoC’s and anyone else in government local, state, or federal as well as tracking legislation, activism, and other information.
- Common Cause will give you the names, party affiliation, direct phone number, website link, and social media platforms of all of your federal, state, and local elected officials.
- USA.gov is the official guide to information and services of the US government. This page explains clearly how to contact everyone from the Ol’ Pussy Grabber to your representative to specific government agencies. Through it you can find the following information about your MoC’s:
- Their phone numbers: DC and state offices
- Their mailing addresses both in DC and their state offices
- Official website with their contact page including email, request a meeting, town hall schedules, and social media
- And, the committees they sit on
- Congress.gov is the official clearinghouse of information on all bills before Congress. You can find the sponsors, summaries, text, and status of every bill before Congress. It is a great tool.
- LegiScan uses the LegiScan API to search the LegiScan Data Service to provide a non-partisan federal and state legislation tracking service.
- 5 Calls: Sign-up for 5 Calls because they help you contact your member of Congress and keep you abreast of on going issues that are important to you! Now, that is a good deal.
- The Capital Hill Switch Board: (202) 224-3121.
- MassacreMitch and #MoscowMitch: His DC office, (202) 224-2541.
- Nancy Pelosi: Her DC office, (202) 225-4965; her California office, (415) 556-4862
- The WH Switchboard: (202) 456-1414 or the comments line at (202) 456-1111 during business hours
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