On Wednesday, the House passed a new bill named for George Floyd in hopes of bringing some reforms to police departments across the country. The bill bans chokeholds at the federal level and eliminates qualified immunity for law enforcement among a series of other pieces of sweeping legislation.
A ban on no-knock warrants, a federal requirement to collect data during police encounters, bans on racial and religious profiling and several redirections of police funding to community-oriented work were also included in the bill, which passed by a 220-212 vote. “Time and time again we have witnessed the people who are sworn to protect our communities abuse their power,” said Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota during the House debate.
President Joe Biden urged the Senate to pass the bill in a statement, saying, “To make our communities safe, we must begin by rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the people they are entrusted to serve and protect. 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.”
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
But the bill’s future in the Senate is uncertain. The House passed a similar bill last year only to see it flounder in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats face better odds this time around, but will still need at least ten Republicans to come to their side if the bill is going to succeed. But most Republicans say the bill undermines the police’s ability to do their jobs. Florida’s Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez said the bill would “weaken and possibly destroy our community’s police forces.”
The bill’s time comes on the eve of former officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in Minneapolis. Chauvin was charged for his role in Floyd’s death, which kicked off an unprecedented global movement for police accountability and justice for Black lives. Footage showed Floyd begging Chauvin to take his knee of of his neck for several minutes before he died. He faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.