Biden's right, we need policing reform now - the House should quickly take up his call to action
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After a week of historic nationwide protests triggered by the police killing of George Floyd and countless others, Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' Trump says he'll wear mask during upcoming trip to Walter Reed Latino group 'Mi Familia Vota' launches M voter turnout campaign targeting swing states MORE has called upon Congress to pass a series of desperately needed policing reforms, including a ban on chokeholds, federal standards for use of force, and the demilitarization of local police departments – something for which I have advocated for years.

He has set the bold and ambitious goal of passing such reforms in the next month, saying: “A down payment on what is long overdue should come now, should come immediately. I call upon the Congress to act this month upon measures that will be the first step in this direction starting with real police reform.”


I agree. Anything less than policing reform that meets Biden’s one-month deadline is unacceptable.

The House Judiciary Committee, upon which I sit, is holding a hearing next week on police brutality and violence. This is a good first step, but we must follow this hearing with concrete action.

Movement leaders and activists have long been fighting for these critical reforms and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) have already introduced meaningful legislation that matches Biden’s calls for exigency. Now with Biden’s full endorsement and renewed sense of urgency, we have the opportunity to pass these policing reforms immediately. These reforms include:

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which I first introduced in 2014 in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s murder, I reintroduced in 2019, and it is ready and waiting for consideration. The Act would help demilitarize law enforcement which is exactly what Biden has called for in his Tuesday speech by banning the Department of Defense from transferring weapons of war such as explosives, tanks, and armed drones to local police departments.

This bill, which is routinely bipartisan, has more than 70 Democratic co-sponsors, including CBC chair Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump takes on CDC over schools Tim Scott says he's talking with House Democrats about reviving police reform bill Biden-Sanders 'unity task force' rolls out platform recommendations MORE (D-Calif.) and CPC co-chairs Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary MORE (D-Wis.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Progressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down MORE (D-Wash.).


I have also introduced the Police Accountability Act, the Grand Jury Reform Act, and the Cooling Off Period Elimination Act to get at the root of causes of police officers who kill citizens with impunity and are never truly held accountable.

In his Tuesday speech, Biden lauded the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act, and urged Congress to “put it on the President’s desk in the next few days.” Introduced in 2019 by Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesReparations bill gains steam following death of George Floyd Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups MORE (D-N.Y.), the Act would ban police use of the chokehold and all other punishment techniques that inhibit breathing.

The Police Exercising Absolute Care With Everyone (PEACE) Act, introduced in 2019 by Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSome in Congress want to keep sending our troops to Afghanistan House panel votes to limit Trump's Germany withdrawal It's time to eliminate land-based nuclear missiles MORE (D-Calif.),establishes federal standards for use of force which is another policing reform that Biden endorsed on Tuesday.

And, Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue Progressives zero in on another House chairman in primary Ocasio-Cortez pitches interns to work for her instead of McConnell MORE’s (D-Mass.) House Resolution formally condemning all acts of police brutality, the use of militarized force, and racial profiling by law enforcement. While this resolution is largely a symbolic gesture, it is a crucial one, and should be passed and then bolstered by substantive legislation.

Unless and until we address police being able to operate with impunity and commit acts of violence against unarmed citizens with no consequences, we are never going to make any real progress or solutions.

There is no silver bullet to fix our broken criminal justice system. But taken together, these bills ensure a more thorough review of cases involving law enforcement officers, keep bad officers off the streets, and begin the necessary healing process to regain the trust and respect between communities and the police.

In his broadcast speech on Tuesday, Biden underscored the gravity of recent events, saying: “We can't leave this moment thinking that we can once again turn away and do nothing.”

I couldn’t agree more. Doing nothing is not an option. We can meet Biden’s ambitious goal of reform within the month if we move swiftly to take up the legislation we already have teed up, and pass a bold policing reform package now.

Congressman Johnson is a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. He is also Secretary of the Congressional Black Caucus.