Defunding has no place in police-reform legislation

By Congressman Rick W. Allen (GA-12)
June 25, 2020

Today marks one month since the wrongful death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since that tragic day, his death has sparked calls for police reform. I believe that in order for justice to be served, we must reevaluate policing policies from the bottom up to ensure this situation will never occur again. No officer who has multiple citations, uses excessive force, and is incapable of performing their lawful duties should be out patrolling the streets.

To the American people: We hear you, and we are working to increase accountability and transparency within police departments nationwide to ensure safe policing and safe communities. However, calls to defund the police and the partisan plan Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats are advancing through the legislative process are not the answer.

Enacting change starts by having a conversation with the many good men and women serving in law enforcement who put themselves in harm’s way in order to keep our communities safe. In Georgia’s 12th District, I’m proud of our law enforcement and the job they’re doing, but I recognize that every community is different and in some areas around our nation, this is not the case.

On Monday, I hosted a call with sheriffs and police chiefs throughout the district to discuss how we move forward with sensible reforms. These brave officers also want to find real solutions and are committed to continue building trust within their communities. There was a lot of great discussion, especially in support of President Trump’s June 16, 2020 historic Executive Order to strengthen relations between law enforcement and their communities and how to best ensure that bad actors are not rehired.

Specifically, this order directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to certify independent organizations to provide accreditation to police departments on de-escalation, use of force and community engagement. The accreditation organizations will examine law enforcement policies on use of force, including where policies should prohibit the use of chokeholds except in situations where deadly force is allowed by law.

Under this order, a system will be created to allow police departments to share information about incidents of excessive force. The grants that the DOJ awards will be contingent on police departments sharing that information.

To be clear, this order does not defund police departments, and any call to do so is wrong. Rather, we must equip officers with the tools for constructive community engagement like highlighted in the Executive Order.

In Congress, Republicans and Democrats agree there are legislative steps we can take to promote better policing. However, like most legislation in Washington, it has become entirely partisan and there are two very different visions for the future.

Without any bipartisan input, House Democrats have crafted a bill that has no chance of becoming law. Their proposal contains partisan poison pills like eliminating qualified immunity, which protects our law-abiding officers. It also goes too far in federalizing law enforcement, which is best handled at the state and local level.

Thankfully, Senator Tim Scott, (R-SC) and Congressman Pete Stauber (R-MN-08), a former police officer, unveiled the Justice Act to expand upon President Trump’s executive order and implement meaningful reforms.

The Justice Act increases reporting on use of force and no knock warrants, increases penalties for false reporting, and ensures a record sharing database for disciplinary offenses when hiring an officer. The bill directs the DOJ to develop and provide training guidelines for de-escalation, implementation and intervening polices, and ensure we are hiring and training the very best by providing grant eligibility for recruiters and academy candidates. It would also make lynching a federal crime and ban the use of chokeholds except for in situations where deadly force is authorized. Additionally, state and local law enforcement agencies would be provided $500 million to equip all officers with body cameras, improve their use, and store and retain footage.

I commend Senator Scott and Congressman Stauber for working on a bill that offers real solutions and brings us one step closer to justice for all, and I’m proud to be a cosponsor of the Justice Act. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have joined Nancy Pelosi in making this issue political and have opposed the bill.

I hope for the sake of our country, my Democrat colleagues decide to work with Republicans to advance this important bill and support our brave law enforcement officials.

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