June 24, 2020

Udall, Heinrich Call on Senate Republicans to Take Up Meaningful, Comprehensive Police Reform Bill

Senators vote to block GOP bill that falls far short of what is needed to protect communities of color and hold police accountable

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider meaningful, comprehensive police reforms instead of a woefully inadequate Republican plan. The senators voted to block the Republican bill from advancing in the Senate today. 

Senators Udall and Heinrich are original cosponsors of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). The legislation takes key steps to end police violence that has disproportionately targeted Black Americans and other communities of color in the United States. 

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to demand an end to police brutality that disproportionately targets Black Americans and people of color,” said Udall. “Unfortunately, the Republican majority is not taking this issue seriously. They have bypassed an open legislative process, failed to seek bipartisan negotiation, and are prioritizing the illusion of action over substance. I am confident that the American people will see through this transparent attempt to prop up empty promises over real action on racial justice. The bill is fundamentally flawed, plain and simple – offering more studies, data, and loopholes instead of acting to ban chokeholds or no-knock warrants, or increase police accountability and transparency in a meaningful way. I was proud to join Senators Booker and Harris in introducing the Justice in Policing Act with critical changes to a system that has taken the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and so many others. Today, I stand with Americans in the streets, Black Americans, and people of color against a rushed show-vote that fails to meet the moment.”

“Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to demand an end to racism in the criminal justice system. They are calling for all of us, including those of us in Congress, to address the persistent, unchecked bias in policing, and the violence and hurt it inflicts on people of color,” said Heinrich. “They deserve our resolve to do just that. The bill put forward by Senate Republicans completely fails to rise to that demand. The reality is that we already have generations of lived experiences, years of studies, and an ever increasing stream of live videos on social media to tell us how our current law enforcement infrastructure affects people of color. What we need to do now is change that system. Congress has a responsibility to pass comprehensive, meaningful law enforcement reform – and we have exactly that in the Justice in Policing Act. We need to take it up now for a real debate on this very real need for police reform.”

The Justice in Policing Act would reform the current law of “qualified immunity” that often makes it difficult to hold police officers accountable for using excessive force, even in cases that result in death. The bill would also increase transparency in police use of force, ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement, mandate the use of body cameras for police officers, end use of racial and religious profiling and finally designate lynching as a federal crime.

The Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter expressing opposition to the Senate Republicans’ Justice Act, and 138 civil rights groups, led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, sent aletter to the Senate strongly opposing the Senate Republicans’ bill, calling it an inadequate response to the decades of pain and hardship Black communities continue to endure.