The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress on Monday unveiled sweeping legislation aimed at combating excessive use of force and racial discrimination by police and making it easier to identify, track and prosecute misconduct, the most expansive federal intervention into law enforcement that lawmakers have proposed in recent memory.
Introduced as a direct response to the recent killings of unarmed black Americans as protests of police violence and racial discrimination continue across the country, the bill proposes significant changes to the rules that govern how police officers operate and how they can be held accountable for wrongdoing. It comes as tens of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to call for a nationwide reckoning with systemic racial discrimination, particularly by law enforcement.
The legislation would curtail protections that shield police officers accused of misconduct from being prosecuted and impose a new set of restrictions on law enforcement officers to prevent them from using deadly force except as a last resort. It includes many measures that civil rights activists have been pushing for decades, which have met with strong opposition from police unions and law enforcement groups.
Its prospects are uncertain on Capitol Hill, where Republicans — despite expressing outrage at some recent episodes of police violence toward black Americans and endorsing calls for change — have yet to indicate what steps, if any, they are willing to embrace. And elements of the measure have already drawn resistance from President Donald Trump, who has called for a military crackdown on the protests and offered unqualified praise of law enforcement, including encouraging rough police tactics in the past.
Whether Democrats can seize the moment and push the changes into law remains unclear. The Democratic-led House, which plans to open hearings on the issue Wednesday with a hearing featuring George Floyd’s brother, is expected to pass the legislation swiftly. Trump and Republican lawmakers who control the Senate have yet to weigh in on the proposals, but Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, shot down one of the provisions Monday afternoon.
“He is looking at a number of proposals, but there are some nonstarters in there,” McEnany told reporters.