Massive Protests Instigate Sweeping Police Reforms In The US

By

CCSS NCSS-5
George Floyd's death has led to nationwide calls for police reform (Credit: Fibonacci / CC-BY-SA-2.0/ Commons. Wikimeda.org)

The unwarranted death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, by a Minneapolis, MN, police officer on May 25, 2020, has reignited the debate about race-based police abuse. Protestors argue that the current law enforcement system encourages systemic racism and are calling for nationwide police reform. In addition to changing the laws, activists are also making a strong case for "defunding the police."

While that may conjure up images of a world with no law enforcement, it is not as scary, or even as radical, as it sounds. Defunding the police does not mean getting rid of the country's 18,000 police forces altogether. Rather, it means changing the roles of police officers and shifting how money is allocated. Currently, the US spends about $100 billion on the police force, and those in favor of defunding want to redirect some of the money to fund education, affordable housing, and other social services that help communities grow and thrive.

The appeal of the masses has not fallen on deaf ears. In less than three weeks after the tragic incident, cities and states across the US have passed, or announced, unprecedented police reform laws. Many are also promising to divert some of the funds allocated for law enforcement agencies to social service programs. Here are a few that have been announced thus far:

Minneapolis, MN

The Minneapolis City Council plans to introduce several reforms to eliminate racial bias in the police force (Credit: Minneapolis Police Department/Facebook)

Minneapolis, the epicenter of the civil unrest, has announced several sweeping police reforms since the mass protests began on May 26, 2020. These include banning neck restraints like chokeholds — which caused Floyd's death — and requiring officers to report unauthorized use of force by their colleagues while still on the scene, regardless of tenure or rank. Additionally, any use of crowd control weapons, such as tear gas, has to be approved by the Minneapolis Chief of Police.

On June 7, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council went one step further by promising to dismantle the city's police department and move to a community-based system of public safety. "Our commitment is to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe," said City Council president Lisa Bender. The officials did not reveal any details on how the process would work, simply stating it would be "through the budget process and other policy decisions."

New York State

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced sweeping police reforms since June 11, 2020 (Credit: Office of New York Governor Andrew M Cuomo)

On June 12, 2020, New York state officials passed a law mandating police officers to disclose all personnel records used to evaluate performance. They also banned the use of chokeholds, made false, race-based 911 calls a crime, and promised the appointment of a special prosecutor for any officer shooting of an unarmed person. On June 15, 2020, the state's governor Andrew Cuomo, announced that he would "sign additional police reforms." Among them is a requirement for police departments and courts to keep a comprehensive record of all arrest data, including race and ethnicity, and training officers to provide medical and mental health assistance to individuals under arrest or in custody when needed.

San Francisco, CA

The city of San Francisco, CA, already has several measures to keep police abuse in check, such as encouraging officers to use the minimum amount of force, and requiring them to intervene in cases where colleagues are being unnecessarily violent with suspects. However, realizing more needs to be done, on June 15, 2020, Mayor London Breed promised further changes. This will include eliminating the police as first responders for non-criminal situations and changing the department's hiring, promotional, training, and disciplinary systems to highlight its primary mission to protect and defend all life. Breed, who said the reforms would be implemented on an ongoing basis, also promised to invest some of the police funds in marginalized communities.

National Reforms

While state and city reforms will certainly help, a national set of laws on acceptable police behavior will be much more effective in eliminating the issue altogether. On June 16, 2020, President Donald Trump started the process with an executive order that would provide federal incentives to local police departments that obtain an independent evaluation certifying they are meeting the required high standards for the use of force and de-escalation training. The directive also outlined incentives for police departments that hire experts in mental health, addiction, and homelessness to "help officers manage these complex encounters." Additionally, it called for the Justice Department to create and maintain a database of former police officers who have been criminally convicted for on-duty conduct or faced civil judgments for "improper use of force."

The Justice in Policing Act proposed by Democrat lawmakers (Credit:
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi/twitter)

Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans are both working on individual plans to enact more precise national reforms. The Democratic police reform bill, entitled Justice in Policing Act, proposes abolishing "qualified immunity," a doctrine which states that police officers can only be charged criminally when the alleged misconduct is intentional, but not when it's reckless. It also recommends banning chokeholds, creating a national database of officers who have committed misconduct, and providing recurring and "frequent" crisis intervention and de-escalation training to all law enforcement personnel.

Members of the Republican Party are proposing a different bill to bring about police reform (Credit: YOUTube/screenhot)

The JUSTICE (Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere) Act unveiled by the Republicans on June 17, 2020, proposes curtailing practices, such as chokeholds, by withholding federal funding to departments that allow them or do not submit reports related to them. The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to report any deaths involving police officers to the FBI for an independent inquiry and suggests a more widespread use of body-worn cameras for officers.

Though both bills address similar issues, the Democrats believe the JUSTICE Act does not go far enough in holding police officers accountable. According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the bill's "greatest flaw" is that it does not address "qualified immunity." Hopefully, the US lawmakers will be able to reconcile the issues and pass this much-needed legislation soon.

Resources: ABCnews.com, NPR.org, NBCnews.com, Washingtonpost.com, Vox.com

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
219 Comments
  • 0401
    0401Saturday, August 8, 2020 at 1:48 pm
    #BlackLivesMatter
    • 0401
      0401Saturday, August 8, 2020 at 1:47 pm
      WE SHOULD ALL BE EQUAL!!
      • girl2020
        girl2020Friday, August 7, 2020 at 8:49 pm
        Rest in peace Brennan taylor, Gergoe floyd.
        • annette09
          annette09Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 12:18 pm
          Wow! That's all I can say!
          • kittiesmama
            kittiesmamaMonday, July 27, 2020 at 6:48 am
            Yes the police made a mistake but don't hate them they protect you Yes he should NOT have done that pray that police don't ever do that again even though they probably will pray for George Floyd's family #LibertyAndJusticeForAll
            • kittiesmama
              kittiesmamaMonday, July 27, 2020 at 6:38 am
              #NoMoreRacism 😊
              • kittiesmama
                kittiesmamaMonday, July 27, 2020 at 6:35 am
                We need to leave the past in the past not bringing it back
                • kittiesmama
                  kittiesmamaMonday, July 27, 2020 at 6:33 am
                  Everyone should be treated equally no matter gender or races it's happening again like was in the 1700s and 1800s and 1900s it's supposed to be over but we're there again I get that 2020 is a hard year but that's no excuse for violence blacks are human too please stop violence I think the corona is making the world have more violence then we had before no one deserves this kind of treatment not black not whites not animals not anyone you reading this make a difference treat blacks equally we want peace not violence stand up for blacks don't make 2020 worse than it already is come on everyone should be treated the same they shouldn't be treated differently because of gender or races be a good person #NoViolence #WeWantPeace
                  • llaama
                    llaamaFriday, July 31, 2020 at 9:47 am
                    Well if we want peace, why are these "peaceful protesters" burning police ALIVE and robbing innocent families?
                  • laynebot5
                    laynebot5Saturday, July 25, 2020 at 11:47 am
                    #blacklivesmatter
                    • animereina2020
                      animereina2020Sunday, July 19, 2020 at 9:40 am
                      All people should be equal. Some people say, "Well, life isn't fair," but it should be. I don't like people who say that . We can change, even though life might not ever be fair, we should at least make peace with each other, because violence is not the answer.