US Civil Rights Leader Applauds Police Chokehold Ban, Urges Congress to Move on Floyd Act
04:01 GMT 17.09.2021 (Updated: 13:24 GMT 06.08.2022)
© SputnikPeople gathered in Minneapolis to commemorate George Floyd
WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Barrington M. Salmon - The US Justice Department’s decision to ban law enforcement from using chokeholds is a welcome step but more needs to do be done to curb police violence against Black people, including the passage of the George Floyd Act, National Urban League CEO and former New Orleans Mayor, Marc Morial, told Sputnik.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department in a memorandum said it implemented department-wide policies banning chokeholds and carotid restraints in addition to no-knock warrants. The memo comes as US law enforcement behavior continues to come under intense scrutiny with 1,000 police killings per year, including 935 in 2021, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.
"The Justice Department’s chokehold ban is an important and necessary step to mitigate the alarming and unnecessary increase of police violence against Black and Brown bodies. For far too long, law enforcement officers have caused inexplicable tragedies and atrocities in communities they police with little to no accountability," Morial said. "While we are excited at this step towards progress, now, more than ever, is when we double down on our efforts to call on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act."
The Floyd bill has been stalled in Congress although media reports on Thursday suggested it could see movement soon. The police reform bill was introduced shortly after Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota, Derek Chauvin, who has been convicted of murder and sentenced to over 20 years in prison.
The civil rights leader said the policy implemented by the Justice Department will help build trust and confidence in communities who have often felt bullied and threatened by law enforcement.
Morial, who served as mayor of New Orleans from 1994-2002, said the United States has a dark, discriminatory, and violent history as it pertains to the over-policing of Black and Brown bodies that extends back to slave patrols in the 1700s.
"The brutal murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Elijah McClain and so many others are just a few of the many who have succumbed to the dangerous misuse of law enforcement techniques," he said.
Floyd Act Prospects Dim
The Floyd bill, in addition to banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, if passed would limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement. In addition, it would require police departments to use existing federal funds to purchase body cameras. The legislation also aims to hold police accountable in court and make it easier to investigate police misconduct.
Wake Forest University Constitutional Law Professor Kami Chavis, who served as an assistant US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said she continues to hope that communities and stakeholders will be able to reimagine public safety that will truly protect marginalized communities and reduce or eliminate police violence.
"I am hopeful and moderately optimistic. There have been changes because of the protests. They are generating data that I would like to see to in the next five years or so to see if these measures have taken hold," Chavis told Sputnik.
However, she thinks there is little likelihood the bill will pass in the Senate because of intense Republican resistance.
"We have to get the US Senate to pass the [Floyd Act] but there will still be a lot of work that will need to be done at the local level," she said.
What likely needs to happen, Chavis added, is that the Democrats flip more seats in the Senate in the 2022 mid-term elections because overall the tragedy of police violence has still not registered among many.
"There was a national outcry after the George Floyd murder, but there’s something deeper in the culture and training that’s not translating," Chavis concluded.