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Rep. Larson: Black Lives Matter

June 16, 2020
Press Release

Dear Friends,

The murder of George Floyd in broad daylight – as he pleaded for his life saying he can’t breathe while a police officer held him down and choked the life out of him – has both sickened and angered me… as I know it has all of you. This is not an isolated or remote occurrence, as further punctuated by the recent murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

As my good friend, Vietnam veteran, retired firefighter, and former Hartford City Councilman, Steve Harris said: “All lives matter, but right now Black Lives Matter! People of color are being killed on TV and on body cams. People of color are considered suspects all the time. These problems are not new. What’s going on now is no different than when John Lewis marched in the 1960’s. This is about race! All cops aren’t bad, and all Black men aren’t a threat. Police reform is needed, and it should be nationally led and driven…” Steve is both prescient and right. 

I stand in support with the thousands of peaceful protestors across Connecticut and the nation. The outpouring across our country demonstrates the resolve of the nation to work together to eradicate systemic racism. If we don’t act, these tragedies will continue.

I’m honored to serve in Congress with civil rights leader Representative John Lewis. He has dedicated his life to fighting for racial equality and I whole-heartedly embrace his call for continuing constructive, peaceful demonstration… and action on behalf of Congress! I’ve also been heartened by President Obama’s recent words, encouraging protesters and reminding us that our country was started by a protest, the American Revolution. I was also encouraged by former Defense Secretary General James Mattis’ remarks condemning President Trump’s divisive language and reminding us we must unify as a country.

We now need action from Congress. This week House Democrats introduced a comprehensive policing reform package spearheaded by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is a bold effort to prevent police brutality, make systemic reforms to empower our communities, and change the culture of law enforcement. This legislation is not a panacea and it will not solve 400+ years of systemic racism overnight, but it is a first step to end racial profiling and systemic racial injustice. I am proud to support this effort.

Led by the Congressional Black Caucus, inspired by John Lewis, and driven by what is right and just, here is the action the House is taking:

The Justice in Policing Act would:

  • Ban racial & religious profiling;
  • Save lives by banning chokeholds & no-knock warrants;
  • De-militarize the police by limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;
  • Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal officers and require state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras;
  • Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability;
  • Ensure police officers can be held accountable, including by reforming qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights;
  • Reprogram existing funds for grants to community-based organizations to study and develop alternative policing practices that create accountability;
  • Require state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age;
  • Create a national standard for the operation of police departments, by requiring the U.S. Attorney General to create law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century policing and;
  • Step up pressure on the Justice Department to address systemic racial discrimination by law enforcement.

Additionally, I also support the following legislative initiatives:

  • Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act (HR 4)
    • The bill would establish a commission to study the implications of slavery and segregation that still impact Black Americans today, and examine appropriate remedies to address these disparities. 
  • Law Enforcement Immersive Training Act(HR 2329)
    • The bill would require the U.S. Department of Justice to create an immersive, real-life, scenario-based training to improve community-police relations, de-escalation, and crisis intervention.
  • Black History is American History Act(HR 6902)
    • The bill would mandate the inclusion of Black history as a required component of the American History and Civics Academies’ competitive grants administered by the Department of Education.
  • Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act(HR 1636)
    • The bill would establish a bipartisan commission that will be housed within the United States Commission on Civil Rights’ office tasked with examining the social disparities that disproportionately affect Black men and boys in America.
  • Resolution condemning all acts of police brutality, racial profiling, and the use of excessive and militarized force throughout the country(H Res 988)
    • The resolution condemns police brutality and calls for sensible policing reforms.
  • George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (HR 7100)
    • This bill would provide incentives for local police organizations to voluntarily adopt performance-based standards to ensure that incidents of deadly force or misconduct will be minimized through appropriate management and training protocols.
  • Ending Qualified Immunity Act(HR 7085)
    • The bill would end qualified immunity for police officers making it easier to prosecute cases where plaintiffs have their rights violated.
  • PEACE Act(HR 4359)
    • The bill would change the legal standard for use of force by federal officers and incentivize states, municipalities, and police departments to adopt a comparable standard by placing conditions on federal grants.
  • National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act(HR 119)
    • The bill would require any law enforcement agency receiving federal funds to provide data on use of deadly force to the Department of Justice.
  • Bend Toward Justice Act(HR 7134)
    • The bill would change the standard of proof from “willfully” to “recklessly” in a deprivation of rights case such as an incident of police brutality. This would remove evidentiary hurdles to charging these cases involving police brutality and excessive use of force.
  • Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act(HR 5602)
    • The bill would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by requiring federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess the threat posed by White supremacists and other violent domestic extremists and take concrete steps to address this threat.

I’m interested in your feedback and wanted to keep you updated on what we’re doing in the House to take the action that so many have called for in marches and protests. If you need any assistance, please do not hesitate to send me an email here or call my Hartford Office at 860-278-8888.

John B. Larson
Member of Congress