The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday (3) approved a bill that bans controversial police tactics and eases the path to prosecution of officers who violate the constitutional rights of suspects.
The “George Floyd Police Justice Act” is named after the black man suffocated by a white police officer, whose murder, filmed and posted on social media, sparked outrage around the world and sparked a wave of demonstrations against racism in several countries.
Derek Chauvin, the agent who appears in the footage, knelt at Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes after a disastrous approach that resulted in death. The victim’s last words – “I can’t breathe” – have become a motto for action against racial inequality and police violence, both inside and outside the United States.
“How many more people will have to die, how many people will have to be brutalized in videos before the police reforms become law?” Asked Democratic Representative Karen Bass (Calif.), Author of the bill with President of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (New York).
“A profession in which you have the power to kill must be one that requires highly qualified officers and accountable to the public,” he added.
The bill passed a close vote – 220 in favor and 212 against – but it is expected to continue thanks to the support of the Democratic majority in the House.
In June last year, a month after Floyd’s death, MPs approved a similar measure with a more expressive vote – 236 to 181 – but the text was banned by the Senate, which had a Republican majority. With Democrats retaining control of the House and occupying 50 of the 100 Senate seats, the party was encouraged to try again.
The George Floyd Act includes measures such as a ban on strangulation during police action, the end of warrants allowing officers to enter the premises unannounced – as in the action that killed Breonna Taylor – and the creation of a national police misconduct registry.
In one of its most controversial provisions, the bill provides for the end of “qualified immunity”, a kind of illegitimate exclusion which, in practice, prevents the police from being held criminally responsible for possible excessive use of force and violations of constitutional rights.
The law also determines the mandatory cameras that can record the actions of agents, both corporals and those positioned on vehicle panels – as in the case of Daniel Prude – and creates new models of community policing, in particular for neighborhoods of minority populations. interests.
Also last year, Republicans introduced a bill on police violence, but left the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” intact. The text did not obtain the necessary votes to pass the Senate.
Two Democrats, Jared Golden (Maine) and Ron Kind (Wisconsin) voted against the creation of the law. Only one Republican, Representative Lance Gooden, a representative from Texas, voted in favor of the bill.
Later, however, Gooden said he pressed the wrong button during the vote and in fact was opposed to the bill as well. “Of course, I wouldn’t support the radical left anti-police law,” the MP wrote on Twitter, proud to have, in his own words, “the most conservative vote in Congress.”
Other Republicans have harshly criticized the Democratic bill, saying if passed the law would endanger the lives of police officers and make communities less safe.
“You say it’s a renovation project, and I say it’s bullshit. Members of their own conference called for cuts in funding for our local police, cursing them for names I can’t and won’t repeat here today, ”said Representative Kat Cammack (Florida).
The Democrats defended themselves. “It would be an irresponsible policy to cut police funds, and we are not in favor of that,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Maryland). “You can say it over and over again. It will be a lie no matter how well it serves your political goals. “
Bass told reporters he would immediately begin liaison between senators to secure approval of the bill. In the event of a tie, the Senate charter determines that the casting vote belongs to the vice-presidency – in this case, Kamala Harris. But passing bills typically requires at least 60 votes in favor, and it’s still unclear whether Democrats will be able to attract opposition senators.
President Joe Biden praised the bill in a virtual conversation with other party members in the House. Earlier this week, the White House released a statement saying that Biden “hopes to work with Congress to enact landmark law for police reform.”
“To make our communities safer, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement officials and those who must serve and protect,” the White House said. “We cannot rebuild that trust if we don’t hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and address systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in law enforcement.”
The vote was originally scheduled for Thursday, but was brought forward by House leaders after police and U.S. Capitol intelligence warned of a possible conspiracy to invade Congress again.
Next Monday (8), Justice should begin to select the jurors who will participate in the Chauvin trial, scheduled for the end of the month. The former police officer is responsible for second degree murder – when there is intent to kill, but without premeditation – which can lead to decades in prison.
In October of last year, he deposited a bond of 1 million US dollars (5.6 million reais) and was released. Chauvin left prison on the condition that he would not return to work in public security and not approach the Floyd family, and had to relinquish his permits to use firearms. Besides him, the three other officers involved in the murder had already been released on bail.