Lawmakers To Propose Bills Ending Police Court Protections, Military Gear Program

In response to calls for stronger police accountability across the nation, lawmakers have promised to introduce legislation to end police court protections, to create a national database for police misconduct, and to end a program that gives local police departments access to military gear…

At the heart of these nationwide protests, there is a call for stronger police accountability, and many advocates argue one of the first steps is taking away a decades-old practice allowed by the Supreme Court, where police officers are not held liable for their actions. This week, Libertarian Congressman Justin Amash is set to introduce the “Ending Qualified Immunity Act.”

In a statement, Amash said, “The brutal killing of George Floyd is merely the latest in a long line of incidents of egregious police misconduct. This pattern continues because police are legally, politically and culturally insulated from consequences from violating the rights of the people who they have sworn to serve.”

We’ve seen numerous multi-million-dollar settlements after citizens were abused by police, but in those cases, the taxpayers in their cities footed the bill. So, there is hope that if police officers know they could be financially responsible for their actions, then it could make them think twice before resorting to violence.

When looking at the case of George Floyd’s death, there were four officers involved who were fired, but so far only one has been charged. But even in cases where officers are fired and charged for police misconduct, and it is shown on a viral video, they are still eligible for hire by other departments or even to be rehired by their own department. Here are a few examples compiled by The Free Thought Project:

  • In Arizona, Officer Philip Brailsford was fired and charged with murder in the shooting death of Daniel Shaver, shown on video in 2016. He was then acquitted and rehired by the Mesa Police Department in 2018. 
  • In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Officer Betty Shelby was charged with murder in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, also shown on video, in 2016. She was found not guilty, and then hired as a sheriff in Roger’s County in 2017. 
  • In Salt Lake City, Utah, Detective Jeff Payne was fired in 2017 after a viral video showed him violently arresting Nurse Alex Wubbels for doing her job. He faced no charges and was then hired by the Weber County Jail in 2019.

To respond to that concern, Democratic Senator Cory Booker has said he plans to introduce legislation that would create a national database for police misconduct, with the hope that it would bring more accountability for officers across the country.

When President Obama was in office, we saw massive criticism of the 1033 Program, which allowed local police departments to obtain excess military gear from federal agencies. Back in 2015, Obama issued restrictions cutting back on that program after widespread criticism over the fact that police were using military equipment to respond to peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri. 

President Trump then issued an executive order reversing those restrictions in 2017. Now we are once again seeing police in riot gear using armored vehicles and deploying tear gas on protesters in the US. Democratic Senator Brian Schatz said he plans to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would discontinue the 1033 program.

So, there is hope that we could see some legislation aimed at police reform as we see Americans across the country calling for more accountability.

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Rachel Blevins is a journalist who aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives.

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