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Feinstein Opposes Republican Policing Bill

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement on the failed vote to advance a bill by Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.):

“On May 25, a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for almost nine minutes.

Mr. Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe and pleaded for officers to stop. The officers ignored his pleas, and continued to kneel on his neck until his body went limp.

George Floyd’s alleged crime? Using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy groceries during a global pandemic.

 As a nation, we have seen far too many unarmed black men and women killed by police. 

  • Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back while running away from Atlanta police. The police had been called because he had fallen asleep in his car and was blocking a fast-food drive thru.
  • Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot eight times by Louisville police while asleep in her home
  • Eric Garner was choked to death by an NYPD officer for selling cigarettes. 
  • Freddie Gray was killed after being taken into custody by Baltimore police for possessing a knife.
  • Walter Scott was shot in the back by North Charleston police after being stopped for a bad brake light. 
  • Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard for breaking windows.
  • And Michael Brown was shot six times by Ferguson police while his hands were raised in the air.

Over the past month, millions of people – of all races, ages, and backgrounds – have taken to the streets throughout the nation to protest these killings and to demand real police reform. 

We need to respond with legislation that truly meets this moment – a bill that actually holds law enforcement agencies and officers accountable under the law.

Mr. President, the Republican JUSTICE Act is nowhere near enough.

It simply does not impose accountability on law enforcement. Specifically:

  • It does not create a national use of force standard. For example, in California, lethal force may only be used to prevent an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person. 
  • It does not end racial profiling – in other words, it does not stop police from using race to target individuals – a practice I would hope that everyone agrees must cease.
  • It does not prohibit no-knock warrants in drug cases – the very type of warrant that led to the death of Breonna Taylor.
  • It does not reform qualified immunity, a legal defense that has allowed officers to avoid accountability even when they’ve broken the law.

Instead of fixing these problems, the JUSTICE Act collects more information and data on problems we already know exist.

We do not need more information, Mr. President. We need to address the underlying issues of systemic racism and police use of force.

That is why, instead of proceeding on this bill, I urge the Senate to engage in good-faith efforts to craft a bipartisan bill that truly holds police accountable under the law.

That is where the Justice in Policing Act comes in. Senator Booker and Senator Harris introduced this bill earlier this month. It should be our starting point.

The bill makes meaningful reforms. For example: 

  • It requires that police departments ban chokeholds and carotid holds in order to receive federal funds. 
  • It prohibits the use of racial profiling by police officers. 
  • It creates a national police misconduct registry that would collect disciplinary or termination history of officers so potential employers would know of an officer’s past misconduct.
  • It gives subpoena authority to the Justice Department to conduct “pattern or practice” investigations. 
  • It eliminates the defense of “qualified immunity” so that police officers can be held civilly liable under the law for misconduct.
  • And it amends federal criminal law so officers can more effectively be charged for violating people’s constitutional and legal rights.

Meaningful reform is long overdue. And rather than rushing a weak bill to the floor, the Senate Judiciary Committee should take up the Justice in Policing Act as soon as possible.

This is how the Senate is supposed to work. We should not be trying to address this important issue by rushing an insufficient bill to the floor. Now is the time for leadership, courage, and real police reform.”