WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday calling for the swift passage of the Justice in Policing Act.
Video of Senator Cardin’s full remarks can be found here.
“People have been dying at the hands of police, predominately people of color. Incremental reform is no longer an option when it comes to police reform. We’ve been patient but we must do better to protect the civil rights, human rights, and lives of the men and women and children in this country. Congress must finally pass a comprehensive plan to improve training and community relations, hold police accountable and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. To that end, I’ve been proud to work with my colleague, Senator Booker and Senator Harris on creating a package of reforms and accountability measures that shows we need to be, as a nation, a fair and just system of laws.”
Cardin is an original sponsor of this comprehensive package for police reform which includes two bills – the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (S. 2355) and the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (S. 3063) – for which he is the lead sponsor.
“The package focuses on three major pillars, accountability, data collection, and training policies. I was proud that two major pieces included in the Justice in Policing Act are from bills that I had introduced from many Congresses. The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act is designed to enforce the constitutional rights to equal protections under law by eliminating racial and religious-based discriminatory profiling at all levels of law enforcement by changing the policies and procedures. It allows police to focus their work more accurately rather than wasting resources on blanket stereotypes. It requires enhanced data collection for the D.O.J. to track and monitor discriminatory profiling. It holds state and local enforcement agencies accountable by conditioning federal funds on the adoption of policies and best practices to combat profiling by officers. The Law Enforcement Trust And Integrity Act takes a comprehensive approach on how local police organizations can adopt performance-based standards to ensure that instances of misconduct will be minimized through training and oversight.”
Cardin also praised other provisions within the bill aimed at prohibiting the use of excessive force, demilitarizing police, and establishing independent investigations to fairly oversee accountability of police misconduct.
“The bill bans choke holds at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning choke holds. It conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning no knock warrants. It requires that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first and better data collection on how and under what circumstances police officers use force. We need these standards. We’ve seen too many tragedies on the misuse of power and force by law enforcement. The bill takes important steps to demilitarize our police forces. We are a civilian society. We’re not run as a military state. It encourages more professionalism consistent with changing our police officers mentality from a warrior mind-set to a guardian mind-set.”
In addition to reform, the bill also takes steps to mitigate police violence by designating resources for community development and the transformation of public safety practices. Senator Cardin highlighted the ongoing federal partnership with Baltimore law enforcement following the death of Freddie Gray, Jr. as an example of continued efforts to rebuild trust between communities and police, and encourage the establishment of more effective public safety models.
“[The Justice in Policing Act] reinvests in our communities by supporting critical community-based programs to change the culture of law enforcement and empower our communities to reimagine public safety in an equitable and just way. In Baltimore after the Freddie Gray tragedy, we recognized that we needed to do a better job in working with communities and police and we reach out and part of our consent decree is to improve that that direct relationship between police and community. The legislation I’ve mentioned on the floor here establishes public safety innovation grants or community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities reimagine and develop concrete, just, and equitable public safety approaches.”