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House lawmakers on Wednesday passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform bill that would ban strangulations and eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement. The 220-212 vote came nine months after Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by Minneapolis police officers last spring.
The sweeping legislation would also ban final warrants, require the collection of data on encounters with police, ban racial and religious profiling, and redirect funding to community policing programs.
“Never again should an unarmed individual be murdered or brutalized by someone who is supposed to serve and protect them,” Representative Karen Bass, D-California, said in a statement. “The world should never again be subjected to what we saw happen to George Floyd on the streets of Minnesota.”
In a House debate Wednesday night before the vote, Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said Minneapolis was still traumatized by Floyd’s death. “Time and time again we have seen the people who have sworn to protect our communities abuse their power,” she said.
Last year, the House passed a similar version of the bill, but it failed in the Republican-controlled Senate. This time around, Senate Democrats will need to influence at least 10 Republican members for the bill to succeed.
Republicans say the legislation goes too far and would prevent police from doing their jobs effectively. Republican Representative Carlos Gimenez of Florida told the House on Wednesday that the bill “would weaken and possibly destroy the police force in our community.”
Earlier this week, the Biden administration released a statement urging the House to vote in favor of the proposal.
“To make our communities safe, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are responsible for serving and protecting,” the statement said. “We cannot rebuild that trust if we don’t hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in law enforcement.”
President Biden also lobbied for his posting on Twitter on Monday.
“After consideration by the Senate, I hope to be able to sign a landmark police reform bill,” he said.
I am glad that the House will vote next week on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I encourage the House to adopt it. After consideration by the Senate, I hope to be able to sign a landmark bill on police reform.
– President Biden (@POTUS) February 25, 2021
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing Floyd, is scheduled to begin in Minneapolis on March 8. Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, faces charges of second degree murder and manslaughter.
Heavy security measures including barricades and fences around the courthouse were put in place ahead of the trial. And thousands of police and National Guard members are expected to be in Minneapolis next week.
The other officers involved in Floyd’s murder will stand trial in a separate hearing in August.