Warren, Pressley introduce bill to make it a crime for police officers to deny medical care to people in custody

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) announced Friday they will introduce a bill that would hold law enforcement officers criminally liable for not providing medical care to people in their custody.

The two Massachusetts lawmakers will bring forth the Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act, named after Andrew Kearse. Kearse, a 36-year-old black man, died of a heart attack in the back of a police cruiser in 2017 after begging the officers for help. The officers did not face charges in relation to his death.

“Andrew Kearse died begging for help and the police officer who looked the other way got off scot-free. Our bill will make sure that officers who fail to obtain potentially life-saving care for people in their custody are held accountable,” said Warren. “This legislation is just one step – I will keep working with my colleagues for a complete overhaul of our policing and justice systems.”

“Andrew Kearse should be alive. To be denied medical care while in police custody is cruel and inhumane,” added Pressley. “Far too many Black Americans have died in police custody. As the COVID 19 pandemic ravages our communities, including those behind the wall, we must codify in law that officers should be held criminally liable for denying medical care to people in custody.”

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) are co-sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.

Among other things, the legislation would hold officials criminally liable if they fail to provide care to people in their custody who are experiencing medical distress, require training for federal law enforcement officials on assisting individuals in medical distress, and order inspectors general of agencies that employ law enforcement officials to investigate possible violations of the legislation.

The introduction of the legislation comes after video went viral of police officers in Buffalo, N.Y., shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground, leaving him unconscious and bleeding from the ear. Two officers involved in the incident were suspended without pay.

Tags Ayanna Pressley Elizabeth Warren George Floyd Kirsten Gillibrand police brutality

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