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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) continues pushing for meaningful police reform as he voted against the GOP-led Justice Act, legislation Brown called a “check in the box” that would do very little to reform policing. Brown took to the Senate floor last night to call for passage of the Justice in Policing Act, a comprehensive package he helped introduced earlier this month to put important policing reforms into place, help end racial profiling in the criminal justice system and work to improve police-community relations.
“I’m not willing to stand here and participate in a political charade – to vote on something that won’t lead to real change, just to check a box and provide politicians with a talking point. It’s an insult to Black families who have been fed empty promise after empty promise for generations,” said Brown. “The Justice in Policing Act would create real change in our justice system, and communities across the country can’t afford us to not act on this meaningful legislation. We need to listen to the Black voices leading these calls for justice, and take real action.”
Specifically, Brown’s Justice in Policing Act would:
The package also includes Brown’s End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, which would better enforce equal protection laws and work to end racial profiling in the criminal justice system.
Brown took to the Senate floor earlier this month, condemning President Trump’s violent response to protests of the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other victims of racist police brutality and systemic injustice. Brown pointed out that Black and Brown communities have been and remain marginalized and targeted and that protests sweeping Ohio and the nation are calling for an end to systemic racism.
Brown’s remarks on the Senate Floor, as prepared for delivery, are below:
Thousands of Americans are peacefully protesting in communities all across the country, demanding our country do better.
The protests are an expression of grief, for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks and so many other Black Americans murdered by the people who were supposed to protect them.
They’re an expression of frustration and anger, that it’s 2020 – a century and a half after the official end of slavery, 55 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act – and still Black people are fighting the same fight.
And they’re also an expression of hope and patriotism. Demanding our country do better, demanding we live up to our founding ideals is one of the most patriotic things anyone can do.
We need to listen to the Black voices leading these calls for justice, and take real action.
That’s what Democrats want to do. My colleagues Senator Harris and Senator Booker in the Senate, and the CBC in the House, have led our bicameral efforts, and have a serious plan: the Justice in Policing Act.
It would implement real, meaningful reforms and actually hold police accountable. It makes it clear:
No more chokeholds. No more unchecked police misconduct. No more militarization of police misconduct.
Of course we know this isn’t the only thing we need to do – policing didn’t create institutional racism, it’s a product of it and often reinforces it, and we have a lot of work to do beyond this. But these reforms are an important start to making policing in our country more just.
The Justice in Policing Act would create real change in our justice system, and communities across the country can’t afford us to not act on this meaningful legislation.
What we cannot do, is pass something called “Police Reform” that does very little to actually reform policing – and then turn around and tell Black mothers and fathers whose children have been slain, “we solved it, our work here is done.”
I respect Senator Scott and I appreciate him coming to the table, and taking on this issue. I know he is fighting an uphill battle within his own caucus.
I want to work with him, and with anyone of either party on real solutions.
But I’m not willing to stand here and participate in a political charade – to vote on something that won’t lead to real change, just to check a box and provide politicians with a talking point.
It’s an insult to Black families who have been fed empty promise after empty promise for generations.
We need to listen to the communities that suffer the most at the hands of police violence, and they all agree: the Senate Republican bill is simply not serious.
It won’t fix the problems, and we’ll be right back here, sooner rather than later.
Major civil rights groups all oppose this bill – the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Urban Leagues, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
It doesn’t ban no-knock warrants. The Justice in Policing Act does.
It doesn’t stop the militarization of police departments. The Justice in Policing Act does.
It doesn’t create a national misconduct registry. The Justice in Policing Act does.
It doesn’t ban chokeholds. The Justice in Policing Act does.
These are all steps that civil rights groups have said are critical to any reform effort. This is the bare minimum we should be doing.
Really all this bill offers is more studies of questions we already know the answers to.
We don’t need more studies, more task forces, more delaying tactics.
We need real accountability.
The Justice Act could even put us in danger of moving in the opposite direction, by providing more funding for policing without adequate strings attached and without a similar investment in community supports.
The NAACP says this bill, quote, “ignores the public demands to reimagine public safety by shrinking the purview of law enforcement and providing better funding to agencies equipped to address the critical needs of communities such as social services, mental health services, and education.”
The Urban League says this bill, “dances around the edges in a show of political posturing.”
We refuse to engage in that political posturing.
We refuse to act like this is just a box we can check, so we can move on.
We refuse to insult Black Americans by pretending this is a serious effort.
People have suffered too long for that.
We have been here before. This isn’t the first wave of protests, or the second.
In 2014, after the murders of Tamir Rice in my city, in Cleveland, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, President Obama and his administration laid important groundwork for reform.
They studied what reforms would be most effective, they instituted consent decrees with cities to hold departments accountable, and they created a roadmap we could follow.
But President Trump undid much of the progress the Obama Administration made.
The Urban League put out a plan for reform in 2014, after Michael Brown’s murder.
Since then, nearly 1,300 Black men and women have been fatally shot by police.
This bill does nothing to stop the practices that killed them.
Black Americans know their lives are put in danger by policing every day. Let’s listen to them. People all around the country – Black and white and brown, in small towns and big cities, young and old – are all listening, waking up, and joining the calls for change.
Let’s follow their lead. Let’s actually hear the voices that have been silenced for too long.
I urge my colleagues to vote “no,” and instead work with us on real, meaningful reform to transform our public safety system into one that actually keeps people safe.