Information on Legislative Police Reform
Statement on Behalf of the NCJA Board of Directors
Like many across the justice system we at the National Criminal Justice Association share in the nation’s sadness and anger at the murder of George Floyd. Not only was it disturbing to watch people charged with protecting all of us act in such a callous manner, but the utter indifference to the suffering of another human being was particularly evident as Mr. Floyd begged for his life, to no avail, and took his final breath.
Mr. Floyd’s death, caught on video, is but a single page in a long story of racial disparity that far too often occurs in the criminal justice system. The ugly stain of racism has not been extinguished, and far too often complaints about the fairness of law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and our overall system of justice have been summarily dismissed with little examination.
The tragic and needless death of Mr. Floyd has sparked an awakening. Finally, many Americans understand that our societal and historical issues with race neither begin nor end at the doors of our justice system. As state and local criminal justice practitioners we work every day to reduce incarceration, reform sentencing laws, divert justice-involved individuals with mental health and substance use disorders into treatment, reduce the collateral consequences of a criminal record, use data to implement programs designed to help individuals returning to the community from prison and jail, and ultimately seek to reduce racial disparities across the justice system.
At NCJA, we are proud of our work throughout states, counties, cities, and townships. But we also know there is still much more to do to ensure that all Americans are treated with fairness and dignity in everyday interactions with police, the courts, those managing jails and prisons, in treatment, and in their return to our communities.
As criminal justice system leaders we have a moral and ethical obligation to continue our work to ensure racial equity in the criminal justice system. As such, we must sharpen our focus and harden our resolve to implement and support policies, programs, and best practices that are fair, just, and address racial bias and the impact on communities of color. The principles of liberty, equal protection, and equal justice demand nothing less.
NCJA Board Expresses its Commitment to Criminal Justice Reform and Announces the Creation of Committee on Racial Justice and Fairness
Today the Board of Directors of the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) released a statement affirming its commitment to the work of criminal justice reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd. To ensure that the words in the statement translate into affirmative and impactful work, NCJA is also announcing the establishment of a new Board committee dedicated to addressing issues of racial equality in the justice system.
This new Committee on Racial Justice and Fairness, co-chaired by Mannone Butler, executive director of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, will empower NCJA to deeply examine the structural issues that impact our work and ensure that we can make positive contributions to undertake these necessary changes.
As states and local jurisdictions across the country re-examine their policies and practices addressing the justice system’s response in Black communities, NCJA is uniquely situated through our work to promote best practices that are fair, just, and address racial bias and the impact on communities of color.
“State and local decision-making will drive much of these reform measures,” said NCJA President Christian Kervick, executive director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council. “As an association representing these policymakers and practitioners across the country, NCJA members play an important role as a catalyst for change.”
Today’s statement combined with the long-term commitment to inform our work through the committee’s guidance, reaffirms NCJA’s mission to ensure a fairer, more just system for all.
George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020
On June 25, 2020, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, or H.R. 7120, by a largely party-line vote of 236–181. Three Republicans, Will Hurd (R-TX), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Fred Upton (R-MI), joined all the Democrats in voting for the bill.
The bill seeks to improve the practice of policing by setting standards, requiring adoption of policies and practices by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and by providing mechanisms for accountability when law enforcement officers do not meet those standards.
The House bill would:
Change the legal standard of police misconduct
Enable individuals to recover damages when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights
Authorize and provide funding for state attorneys’ general to conduct pattern and practice investigations
Provide for the creation of civilian review boards; call for developing uniform accreditation standards for all law enforcement agencies
Create a national registry for law enforcement disciplinary records
Require states and localities to adopt use of force standards and report violations of those standards
Require state and local law enforcement officers to complete training on use of force, duty to intervene, racial profiling, implicit bias and procedural justice
Require policies on the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases; ban chokeholds
Expand those who could be prosecuted for lynching under federal hate crimes law
Limit the transfer of surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies; and, require expanded use of body-worn cameras
Require expanded use of body-worn cameras
Many of these new mandates and policies would be encouraged by a partial or full penalty on the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant or COPS Hiring Programs.
Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America's Streets Act
The Senate Republican leaders bill Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere, or JUSTICE Act, or S. 3985, is sponsored by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and co-sponsored by most members of the Senate Republican caucus. Senate Democrats, who favor the competing House bill have blocked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) effort to bring the bill up for debate. That cloture motion failed by a vote of 55-45.
The Senate bill would:
Create a new Commission on the Status of Black Men and Boys
Revive a long-stalled proposal to create a National Criminal Justice Commission to study and make recommendations on best practices in criminal justice.
Reauthorize the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) and COPS Hiring programs; and
Require the DOJ to establish benchmarks for use of the funds that grantees would have to meet or lose the opportunity to apply for funding for one year
The Senate bill would create a new Commission on the Status of Black Men and Boys and would revive a long-stalled proposal to create a National Criminal Justice Commission to study and make recommendations on best practices in criminal justice. The Senate bill also would reauthorize the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) and COPS Hiring programs and would require the DOJ to establish benchmarks for use of the funds that grantees would have to meet or lose the opportunity to apply for funding for one year.
The JUSTICE Act relies heavily on penalties to the Byrne JAG and COPS Hiring programs to direct changes in state and local law enforcement policies and practices. The penalties apply to nearly every provision in the bill and are cumulative. The JUSTICE Act includes six separate penalties totaling 300 percent of a state’s award. The JUSTICE Act also requires states and localities to spend portions of their grant funds to achieve compliance with various provisions.
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