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House Democrats include $597 million for police reform in spending bill

House Democrats include $597 million for police reform in spending bill
© Greg Nash

House Democrats included a slew of police reforms, as well as $596.7 million in funding for reform programs, in a proposed spending bill for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins in October. 

The 2021 appropriations bill for the departments of Commerce and Justice includes $400 million for initiatives that would boost independent investigations of law enforcement, fund pattern and practice investigations that look for systemic problems in policing, support community-based organizations seeking to improve law enforcement and other initiatives.

It would also provide $50 million to train local law enforcement on certain best practices, $77.5 million to grant programs to boost police-community relations, $25 million for federal investigations into misconduct and $4 million for civilian review boards. 

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Not all of the money in the bill represents new funding, with some going toward existing Justice Department programs.

“This bill creates real, significant, and lasting change in policing accountability by creating several new grant programs proposed in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to drive law enforcement reform and accountability practices, by rolling back limitations put in place by the Trump Administration, by increasing funding for the [Department of Justice] DOJ Civil Rights Division and for FBI investigations of law enforcement patterns and practices, and by putting limitations on Federal grant funds to incentivize reform at the state and local level," said House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Chairman José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.).

The bill would ban federal funds from going to police forces that don't update their own rules, such as by banning chokeholds and "no-knock" drug warrants and loosening contracts that prevent misconduct actions against police.

The bill both complements and funds the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the bill House Democrats passed following widespread social unrest over police brutality and racial bias last month. The legislation was named for George Floyd, a Black man whose killing at the hands of a white officer sparked the protests.

But similar efforts in the GOP-controlled Senate have faltered, leaving little hope of a police reform bill being signed into law. 

While House Democrats will be able to advance their 2021 spending bills along party lines, the Senate's need for bipartisan support has stalled the process across the Capitol.

Police reform and coronavirus-related spending, in particular, have stalled the process in the upper chamber.