Iowa Democratic Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne joined more than 150 of their House colleagues in co-signing legislation that puts forth major changes to the way police departments operate in the United States.
The Justice in Policing Act, introduced by Congresswoman Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was unveiled Monday in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Since his death May 25, people in all 50 states have taken to the streets in mass demonstrations to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
Protestors also have called attention to Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment and Ahmaud Arbery, a Georgia resident shot in the street by white men while he was out for a run.
“The changes they demand are long overdue — and I share their desire for a robust response that will not only tackle racism and bias in our institutions, but also takes direct steps to save lives and hold our police officers accountable,” Axne said in a statement.
The Justice in Policing Act aims to improve accountability and data collection of police misconduct; ban the use of chokeholds “and other dangerous tactics” at the federal level; require racial discrimination training and the creation of departmental accreditation standards; limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to local law enforcement; and establish public safety innovation grants, among other provisions. The bill states law enforcement funding for state and local governments would be conditioned on police departments banning chokeholds.
It is expected to come to the House floor June 25. In the Republican-controlled Senate, Tim Scott of South Carolina, the GOP’s sole black senator, is leading efforts to craft legislation that could be made public next week.
In a tweet, Finkenauer called House Democrats’ proposal “essential legislation to enact reform and ensure accountability in American policing.”
She also has had conversations on the issue with leaders in Waterloo to discuss “how to advance the fight for justice in #IA01 and in Congress.”
“Thank you all. I’m here to listen, and to act,” she said.
Also today, I signed on as a cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. This is essential legislation to enact reform and ensure accountability in American policing.
— Abby Finkenauer (@RepFinkenauer) June 9, 2020
In an effort to help facilitate conversations between Iowa leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus, Axne hosted a roundtable discussion Wednesday night with two dozen African American leaders and Congresswoman Bass to discuss the Justice in Policing Act, voter suppression, support for black-owned businesses and other issues impacting people of color in the state.
Axne, who represents Des Moines and Southwest Iowa, in an interview with WHO-TV, also has expressed support for protestors while highlighting ways Congress can make meaningful changes to policing by “coordinating with people all across our district and our state to make sure we’re addressing those inequities here, these systemic problems, so that we don’t see anymore issues in Iowa.”
Protests — which largely are peaceful — have taken place in Des Moines, either at the Capitol building or in the streets, every day since Floyd’s death.
“These are communities of people who have been disenfranchised and left out of opportunity for centuries, who have been suppressed in all aspects — from voting to working, to being targeted when it comes to police departments across the country,” Axne told WHO.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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