Rep. Hayes Champions Crucial Civil Rights Reforms

June 9, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – On Monday, Congresswoman Hayes joined House colleagues in introducing the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, and the Police Training and Accountability Act with Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02). These crucial pieces of legislation are designed to provide needed training, resources, and oversight of law enforcement agencies, while protecting communities that have been subjected to disproportionate levels of police violence.

“Today, my colleagues and I are taking a step forward in addressing police brutality and the systemic inequalities that fuel it,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “To all the young people protesting: we hear you. To all the families who have tragically lost a loved one at the hands of police: we hear you. To all the police officers looking for adequate training and support: we hear you. This package is a first step to addressing the decades old grievances being articulated.”

“This package is not anti-police. My husband has been in law enforcement for 23 years as part of the Waterbury Police Department. I recognize that any solution to the problem of police misconduct will have to include proper training and resources for law enforcement agencies in order to reform their practices. The Justice in Policing Act will redirect resources to where law enforcement really need them: training, accountability, and transparency, rather than militarization. Law enforcement officers are called for situations ranging from an overdose to a break-in, but are not prepared for these varying responsibilities. Putting money where it really matters, rather than trying to fix problems with more machinery and ammunition, is what this legislation aims to achieve.”

“This package is a good step, but it is just the beginning. Once we address these pernicious and persistent disparities in policing, we must then address the historic, structural inequalities that leave communities more vulnerable to police violence. Funding schools, promoting housing equity, ensuring access to health care and reforming our system of mass incarceration are but a few necessary steps that still must be taken.”

“Congress must continue to champion reforms that address structural inequalities. I am proud to be an original cosponsor on the Justice in Policing Act and to co-lead the Police Training and Accountability Act.

Congresswoman Hayes previously supported 4 bills included in the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The package will:

  • Hold police accountable in our courts by:
    • Amending 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.

The Police Training and Accountability Act would provide much needed training and oversight of law enforcement practices by:

  • Creating a Civilian Commission on Law Enforcement Training within the Department of Justice, comprised of a body of civilians appointed equally by the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate.
  • Requiring the Commission to establish national training requirements that all law enforcement officers, and their supervisors, must meet in order to receive Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) funds. These requirements, at minimum, would include:

(1)   a minimum level of education attainment while not prohibiting high school graduates from employment consideration for entry-level positions;

(2)   training hours;

(3)   use of force;

(4)   use of lethal force;

(5)   implicit bias;

(6)   conflict resolution, mediation, and de-escalation practices;

(7)   pursuit;

(8)   video technology;

(9)   stop and search procedures; and

(10) intervention programs.

  • Requiring the Commission to issue a Civilian-Law Enforcement Bill of Rights outlining the rights every person has when interacting with law enforcing. Receipt of Byrne JAG funds would be conditioned on adherence to this Bill of Rights.