We’ve announced the Justice in Policing Act to reform our nation’s police departments

Kamala Harris
3 min readJun 10, 2020

America is raw right now. Her wounds are exposed from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other Black Americans. We’re seeing mass protests across the country from people demanding that we hold police departments accountable for widespread misconduct. And we need to act.

This week, I was proud to join Senator Cory Booker, the Congressional Black Caucus, and other Congressional leaders to announce the Justice in Policing Act, the first ever comprehensive police accountability and reform legislation.

Here are a few pieces of the bill that I want to highlight.

  • The bill will ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases. George Floyd was murdered by a knee on his neck after repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe. Breonna Taylor was murdered after police used a no-knock warrant to enter her home. Both of these tragedies could have been prevented with these policies.
  • It will create a national use of force standard. Right now, the current standard requires that use of force by police is “reasonable.” Well, you can reason away just about everything. We need to raise that standard and require that officers only use force when it’s absolutely necessary.
  • It will expand pattern and practice investigations into police misconduct. When I was California Attorney General, I opened civil pattern and practice investigations into the Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office in response to community complaints and reports of excessive use of force and misconduct. I know how important these investigations are to achieving reform.
  • It will establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to track officers with a history of misconduct.
  • And it will require states to report data on use of force incidents involving officers. This will allow us to hold officers and whole departments accountable.

But we cannot truly address the issue of police violence unless we also do it at the local level.

Police are often the first responders to issues of poverty, homelessness, mental health, and addiction. We are asking them to fix problems they are not equipped to fix.

Leaders at every level of government must prioritize investments in jobs, education, and health care to build safe and healthy communities. We can address root problems with these investments, and that’s good for everybody.

And we have to stop conflating safety with law enforcement, as though the only way to achieve safety is to have a heavy law enforcement presence. Many people in America already live in communities with minimal interactions with police. Go to any middle and upper middle-class suburb and you’ll see a world where people aren’t shot by police while sleeping in their home.

Instead, black and brown communities — who have not benefited from the same investments in jobs, education, and health care — are being overcriminalized and overpoliced. And police violence is a consequence of that.

This is a moment in time where we all have a responsibility to stand for the principles of the words etched above the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law. I know we can have a country without police violence. But it requires that we have the will to enact change. And that moment is now.

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Kamala Harris

Official Medium account of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris.