Colorado House members cheer on federal police reforms

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Washington, D.C.-, June 25, 2020 | comments

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora made the case of the federal police reform bill by speaking of Elijah McClain, the Aurora 23-year-old who died in police custody.

“Before coming to the floor today, I asked Elijah’s mother what she wanted to tell the world about her son," Crow said. "Here are her words: 'Elijah spread joy everywhere he went. He was a lover of all beings. He dedicated his energy to healing others through his work as a massage therapist and playing his violin at the animal shelter to keep them from being lonely. Elijah’s name will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.'”

Thursday Crow was among the Colorado members of the U.S. House to help pass the Justice in Policing Act, the most expansive police reform bill in a generation to confront racial discrimination and excessive use of force by law enforcement.

 

The vote was 236-181, including three Republican votes. The House is held by Democrats, and the proposal appears to be doomed in the Republican-controlled Senate, as GOP members are smarting because of Democrats' efforts to sink their police bill introduced by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

The House bill would eliminate some shield protections for police officers against lawsuits and make it easier to prosecute them for misconduct, including tougher restrictions on the use of deadly force, effectively banning chokeholds nationwide. The bill also mandates body cameras and creates a national police misconduct registry.

Democrats' legislation includes the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, which Crow introduced with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota this month. Crow’s office said he started working on the bill after McClain's death. 

You can watch Crow's floor speech by clicking here.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Arvada, was one of the bill's original cosponsors.

“Every incident of excessive police force against an unarmed African American or person of color — anywhere — is wrong," he said in a statement Thursday night. "Every person in this country, regardless of the color of their skin, should be able to live without fear of discrimination or violence. Sadly, for decades there has been a tinder box of racial and social injustice in our country. Tensions have understandably exploded, and it has ignited some real emotions and desire for justice as communities of color have faced criminal, economic, and social injustice for too long.

“Without justice, there can be no order. This transformative legislation is the first of many steps forward as we work together to address the inequality and injustice that exists.”

You can watch Perlmutter's testimony on the bill to the House Rules Committee last week by clicking here.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, also cosponsored the bill.

“What happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and so many more Black Americans across this county should never happen to anyone, ever,” DeGette said, naming Black people who died in police custody. “It’s not enough to simply say Black lives matter. We need to take steps now to ensure everyone in this country — regardless of their race, color or creed — is treated equally by those sworn to protect them. This legislation will fundamentally transform our nation’s system of policing to help prevent the senseless killings of Black Americans by law enforcement officers.

"This legislation alone will not solve the systemic racism that still persists in this country, but it’s an important first step toward ending the police brutality that too many Black Americans have fallen victim to for far too long.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs, voted against the policing bill, and noted Thursday evening that it was written by Democrats without any input from House Republicans, after Senate Democrats blocked Scott's bill on Wednesday.

Lamborn is a cosponsor of the House version of the Senate bill. He said the Democrats' bill will put police officers in danger.

"The vast majority of law enforcement serve their communities with honor and distinction. I truly appreciate their tireless work and devotion," he said in a statement. "However, what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy. His untimely death has shed light on much needed reforms to our police departments. This is why I am pleased to cosponsor of the House version of Senator Tim Scott’s Justice Act."

Lamborn said the bill requires use of force reporting, encourages chokehold bans, increases penalties for false police reporting and encourages body-worn cameras.

"However, Democrats refused to work with Republicans, and instead crafted a partisan messaging bill behind closed doors that will never become law," he stated. "The Democrat bill endangers the very officers that protect our communities and instead would make our communities less safe. The American people want us to act, and I am disheartened that my Democratic colleagues refuse to legislate in a bipartisan fashion to address police reform. We can and must do better."

Content originally published by Colorado Politics on June 25, 2020.
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