In the first full year of state lawmaking since the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the ensuing massive protest movement, the states passed a mix of sweeping and incremental laws while Congress failed to act, the Associated Press reports. While a number of states banned chokeholds or tightened rules governing the use of body-worn cameras, several Republican-led states responded by granting police even greater authority and passed laws cracking down on protesters.
Maryland, which 50 years ago became the first state to pass a police officers' bill of rights providing job protections in disciplinary proceedings, became the first to repeal those rights in 2021. Legislators enacted new procedures giving civilians a role in police discipline. Washington state reformed use-of-force policies and created a new agency to investigate when officers use deadly force. And California overcame objections from police unions to make sure officers fired in one jurisdiction couldn’t be hired in another. The various state actions came as the U.S. House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act without a single Republican vote and then the measure collapsed in the evenly divided Senate. Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 356,000 law enforcement officers, said he thinks it’s still possible for Congress to pass police reform, but perhaps only after another deadly case captures the nation’s attention. “Sadly, the only thing we know for sure, it will be a tragedy that will precipitate change,” Pasco said.