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House lawmakers on Wednesday passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform bill that would ban chokeholds 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 wide-ranging legislation would also ban no-knock warrants, mandate data collection on police encounters, prohibit racial and religious profiling and redirect funding to community-based policing programs.
“Never again should an unarmed individual be murdered or brutalized by someone who is supposed to serve and protect them,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., in a statement. “Never again should the world be subject to witnessing what we saw happen to George Floyd in the streets in Minnesota.”
In debate on the House floor Wednesday evening before the vote, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said Minneapolis is still traumatized by Floyd’s death. “Time and time again we have witnessed the people who are 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 have to sway 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 Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida said on the House floor Wednesday that the bill would “weaken and possibly destroy our community’s police forces.”
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 entrusted to serve and protect,” the statement said. “We cannot rebuild that trust if we do not hold police officers accountable for abuses of power and tackle systemic misconduct – and systemic racism – in police departments.”
On Monday, President Biden also pushed for its passage on Twitter.
“Following Senate consideration, I hope to be able to sign into law a landmark police reform bill,” he said.
I am pleased that the House will vote next week on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I encourage the House to pass it. Following Senate consideration, I hope to be able to sign into law a landmark police reform bill.
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 25, 2021
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing Floyd, is scheduled to begin in Minneapolis on March 8. Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
Heavy security measures, including barricades and fencing around the courthouse, have been put in place ahead of the trial. And thousands of police officers and National Guard personnel are set to be present in Minneapolis next week.
The other officers involved in Floyd’s killing will be tried at a separate hearing in August.