The House passed a police reform bill named for George Floyd that would ban choke holds and ‘qualified immunity’ for officers

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators march from the U.S. Capitol Building during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
Protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington DC.

  • The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act late Wednesday.
  • The bill would be the most ambitious police reform passed in the US in decades.
  • The legislation now heads to the Senate, where it needs at least 10 GOP votes to become law.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The US House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act late Wednesday, in a party-line vote on the most ambitious policing reform bill in decades.

The bill is named for George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed in May of last year when a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, prompting a summer of racial justice protests nationwide.

The legislation would ban the use of neck restraints at the federal level, get rid of “qualified immunity” for police officers, and prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases.

Under current law, qualified immunity prevents public officials from being held personally liable for wrongdoing that occurs while on the job, making it difficult to sue police officers. Democrats tried to get rid of it last year, saying doing so would make it easier for police officers to be held accountable for misconduct.

The latest reform bill was passed after President Joe Biden indicated support for it on Twitter and in a statement on Monday. 

“To make our communities safer, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are entrusted to serve and protect. We cannot rebuild that trust if we do not hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in police departments,” the statement said.

House Democrats tried to pass a version of the bill last year but were blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republican votes in order for it to become law.

Some Republicans have said the bill would make it harder for police to do their jobs. On the House floor Wednesday, GOP Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida said the bill would “weaken and possibly destroy our community’s police forces,” NPR reported.

But Rep. Karen Bass, who introduced the latest legislation, said she believes lawmakers will work together to pass the bill in the Senate, NBC reported. “Many of our Republican colleagues said they thought they could get to yes on this, but they had some difficulties,” Bass said of last year’s bill.

The bill also outlaws racial profiling, establishes a national registry of police misconduct, and requires state and local agencies to report use of force data by categories that includes race, sex, and religion.

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Ithaca mayor is set to propose a plan to replace the city’s police with a civilian-led agency, report says

Svante Myrick mayor of Ithaca
Svante Myrick, mayor of Ithaca, NY.

  • Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick plans to propose a plan to replace the city’s police with a civilian-led agency, GQ reported.
  • The plan was created as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for New York cities to review their police departments.
  • The proposal includes an agency with armed “public safety workers” and unarmed “community solution workers.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The mayor of Ithaca, New York, is set to propose a plan to abolish the city’s police force and replace it with a new civilian-led agency, GQ reported Monday.

According to a nearly 100-page report reviewed by GQ, Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick will suggest abolishing the city’s current police department and replace with a “Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety.”

The plan would replace the department, staffed with 63 officers that costs $12.5 million a year to run, with an agency with armed “public safety workers” and unarmed “community solution workers,” all under the helm of a civilian director of public safety rather than a police chief, GQ reported.

“IPD currently spends one third of its time responding to calls for service that essentially never lead to arrests,” Myrick wrote in the report’s introduction, according to GQ. “Those calls, as well as a majority of patrol activity, can and should be handled by unarmed Community Solution Workers well trained in de-escalation and service delivery. This will allow our new Public Safety Workers to focus on preventing, interrupting and solving serious crime.”

The main goal of the plan is to reduce the number of encounters between civilians and armed officers, GQ reported. Service calls will be evaluated to determine whether an armed or unarmed respondent is necessary for the situation, or if it should be outsourced to a different public entity entirely.

GQ also reported that calls regarding mental health crises will be “outsourced to a standalone unit of social workers based on the CAHOOTS program pioneered in Eugene, Oregon.”

In an interview with GQ on Sunday, Myrick told the publication that he acknowledged his plan is a “radical thing for a city and a mayor to do.”

“Everyone wants the police to perform better when they show up, everybody wants that,” Myrick told GQ. “What this plan is saying is that we also want the police to show up less – and that’s a radical thing for a city and a mayor to do.”

The proposal was made as part of an executive order signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo requiring New York cities to conduct comprehensive reviews of their police departments. Last summer, the Black Lives Matter protests prompted by the death of George Floyd renewed calls for police reform – namely, defunding and abolishing police departments.

Advocates for defunding the police demanded that funding be diverted from the police department and instead given to social programs and development, Insider’s Ellen Cranley reported.

While some departments have seen large budget cuts in the wake of the protests – including $150 million in cuts for the Los Angeles Police Department and the Austin Police Department, respectively- the move of abolishing and recreating police departments has been more or less unprecedented prior to Myrick’s proposal.

In order to move forward with implementing the plan, it would need approval from the city council, which the mayor said, he believes, will happen.

Myrick was elected as mayor in 2011, becoming the city’s first Black mayor and youngest mayor at the time at 24 years old. Myrick, now 33, has been at odds with Ithaca’s police union in previous years, raising the question if the union will support his plan to reform the department, which he hopes to have up-and-running by summer 2023.

“I do think it will be a big battle,” Myrick told GQ. “Fox News will lose their s—.”

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