The national reckoning on race and policing after the death of George Floyd led to a torrent of state laws aimed at fixing the police. More than two years later, the drive has slowed, reports the Associated Press. Some of the reforms have been tweaked or even rolled back after police complained that the new policies were hindering their ability to catch criminals. While governors in all but five states signed police reform laws, many of those laws gave police more protections as well. More than a dozen states passed laws only aimed at broadening police accountability; five states only passed new police protections. States approved nearly 300 police reform bills after Floyd’s killing in May 2020, says the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland. The center used data from the National Conference of State Legislatures to identify legislation enacted since June 2020 that affects police oversight, training, use of force policies and mental health diversions, including crisis intervention and alternatives to arrests.
Many accountability laws touched on themes related to Floyd’s death, including the use of body cameras and requirements that police report excessive force by their colleagues. Among other things, police rights measures gave officers the power to sue civilians for violating their civil rights. In Minnesota, where the reform movement was prompted by chilling video showing Floyd’s death at the knee of officer Derek Chauvin, the legislature enacted several police accountability changes, but they fell well short of what Democrats and activists were seeking. The state banned neck restraints like the one used on Floyd. It also imposed a duty to intervene on officers who see a colleague using excessive force, changed rules on the use of force and created a police misconduct database. This year, Democrats were unable to overcome Republican opposition to further limits on “no-knock” warrants even after a Minneapolis SWAT team in February entered an apartment while serving a search warrant and killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man. Similar dynamics have played out in states as varied as Washington and Virginia, Nevada and Mississippi. Thomas Abt of the think tank Council on Criminal Justice said, “We’re in the midst of this extraordinarily painful, very formidable process."