House Democrats Propose $400M for Police Reform

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Photo by Drew Stephens via Flickr

House Democrats overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) budget released their proposal for the year starting Oct. 1 on Tuesday, calling for “strong funding increases to help ensure civil rights and reform police practices throughout the country.”

In a bill that would provide $33.2 billion for DOJ, an increase of $972.5 million above this year’s level, the appropriations subcommittee would provide $400 million for grants to carry out police reform initiatives, including $100 million for “pattern and practice investigations” of local police departments and $250 million for “independent
investigation of law enforcement.”

The proposal includes $25 million for community-based organizations that aim to improve law enforcement, $25 million for pilot programs on “effective standards” and programs aimed at “improving management and addressing misconduct by law enforcement officers.”

Democrats would spend $77.5 million for Police-Community Relations grant programs and $50 million for training state and local law enforcement on racial profiling, implicit bias, de-escalation, use of force, the duty to intervene when witnessing another officer using excessive force, and “procedural justice.”

The bill includes a number of other police-reform allotments. Among them:

  • $27.2 million to help state and local law enforcement improve reporting on the use of force, comply with consent decrees,  and create local task forces on public safety innovation.
  • $25 million for federal investigation and prosecution support to address misconduct and systemic change in police organizations.
  • $8 million for Hate Crime Prevention and Prosecution Grants
  • $5 million for a new National Task Force on Law Enforcement Oversight
  • $4 million for Civilian Review Boards

The measure would require state and local law enforcement agencies to begin the process of obtaining accreditation from a certified accreditation organization as a precondition to get any DOJ funds.

It also would force state and local local governments getting federal aid to comply with nine conditions aimed at improving police practices, including the elimination of racial profiling and implicit bias, excessive force and chokeholds,“no-knock” warrants in drug cases, “contractual arrangements that prevent investigations of law enforcement misconduct,” and sexual misconduct between officers and people in their custody.

Subcommittee chairman José Serrano (D-NY) said the bill “starts the urgent and necessary process of change by focusing on police accountability, civil rights, and justice for all.”

Serrano said the measure “creates real, significant, and lasting change in policing
accountability by creating several new grant programs proposed in the
George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to drive law enforcement reform and
accountability practices, by rolling back limitations put in place by the Trump Administration.”

The Democrats’ funding measure mirrors in many respects the police reform bill already passed in the House but rejected by Republicans in the Senate.

Tuesday’s proposal represents the opening shot in a long appropriations process that probably will extend into September.

It was not immediately clear which of Tuesday’s proposals will be approved by the House or ultimately by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump.

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