Will Quick Legislative Fixes on Policing Be Enough?

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Within three weeks of George Floyd’s death, Colorado legislators passed a bill that requires body cameras for police officers, sets up a database of fired officers and prohibits use of chemical irritants during protests. The urgency of public protests put policing changes on a fast track in many states, said Amber Widgery of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some advocates say the legislation only scratches the surface of deeply embedded policing problems and that quick fixes haven’t solved systemic issues, Stateline reports. States passed dozens of laws regulating police use of force, mandating training for crisis interactions and requiring body cameras after the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. “One of the reasons why there’s so much anger now is … people thought things were getting better and they weren’t,” said Jeremiah Goulka of Northeastern University’s Health in Justice Action Lab.

Since Floyd’s death, at least three states besides Colorado have enacted policing-related legislation and at least 12 more are considering it. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed bills to repeal a law shielding police disciplinary records from public scrutiny, create a unit to investigate police misconduct and ban chokeholds. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill banning chokeholds and knee-on-the-neck restraints. Iowa enacted a law to ban most chokeholds and address officer misconduct. After Ferguson, at least 16 states enacted legislation regulating use of force by law enforcement, 27 states required police training for situations involving people with mental illness, and 34 states passed laws related to body cameras. Northeastern’s Goulka said any legislation that singles out police tactics is likely to fall short. “Simply banning chokeholds, I see as just a means of trying to calm the public as opposed to fundamentally revamping use of force policies and training and culture,” he said.

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