Updated: March 04, 2021 06:42 PM
Created: March 04, 2021 05:17 PM
House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday night passed the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was approved by a vote of 220-212.
The sweeping legislation, which was first approved last summer but stalled in the Senate, was named in honor of Floyd, whose death in police custody in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked protests nationwide. The bill would ban chokeholds and "qualified immunity" for law enforcement and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability.
"My city is not an outlier, but rather an example of the inequalities our country has struggled with for centuries," said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who represents the Minneapolis area near where Floyd died. She asked her colleagues if they would "have the moral courage to pursue justice and secure meaningful change?"
In an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS following the vote, Omar said, as the upcoming trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is set to begin, this piece of legislation is more important than ever.
"This is about creating guardrails within our policing system. This is about making sure there is justice and accountability," Omar said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime piece of legislation; it is named after Geroge Floyd, but it is a bill for every single victim who has been taken from our communities at the hands of those who were sworn to protect them. It's about making our policing a more just system."
But Republican Rep. Michelle Fischbach, who also represents the state where George Floyd died, spoke out against the proposal.
"This bill hinders law enforcement's ability to do their jobs. It limits the readiness of law enforcement, and demonizes an entire profession for the acts of a few," Fischbach said. "We do not deny there is work to be done, but that path to getting it done is working together to ensure that law enforcement develops the necessary tools to keep our communities safe and protect the rights of people to serve."
KSTP reached out to various local law enforcement and law enforcement unions for comment.
The St. Paul Police Federation released the following statement:
"Our focus has been and will continue to be on addressing the rapid increase in violent crime in St. Paul, specifically the record number of murders, gunshot victims and shots being fired.
"It's saddening to members of the St. Paul Police Federation and the Law Enforcement profession as a whole that our profession has become so partisan. Misguided legislation is continually getting pushed forward at both the state and federal level without any law enforcement input whatsoever for the sole purpose of political expediency. It has never been more challenging to retain and recruit high quality cops and this type of legislation only exacerbates that problem. We want our young community members to aspire to be police officers and see law enforcement professionals as a beacon of hope. The type of legislation in question does just the opposite. We are committed to a continued dialogue with our community to ensure we keep St. Paul safe for all."
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