Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement, as prepared, on the House floor in support of H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act:
"Madam Speaker, the tragic and brutal death of George Floyd has been a wake-up call for millions of Americans. Across the nation and around the world, the streets are lined with protesters demanding fundamental change in the culture of law enforcement and meaningful accountability for officers who commit misconduct.
"Today we answer their call.
"We value and respect the many brave and honorable police officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect us and our communities. We know that most law enforcement officers do their jobs with dignity, selflessness, and honor, and they are deserving of our respect and gratitude for all they do to keep us safe.
"But we must also acknowledge that there are too many exceptions. Too many law enforcement officers do not uphold the ethic of protecting and serving their community. Instead, the reality for too many Americans, especially many African Americans, is that police officers are perceived as a threat to their liberties, to their dignity, and—too often—to their safety.
"And to those who do not believe it, please look at the tragic statistics. African Americans are more than twice as likely to be shot and killed by police each year. And Black men between the ages of 15 and 34 are approximately 10 times more likely to be killed by police than other Americans.
"This is not a new problem. Our country’s history of racism and racially motivated violence—rooted in the original sin of slavery—continues to haunt our nation.
"We see it in the rates of COVID deaths, in our system of mass incarceration, and in the vast chasm of economic inequality—all of which fall disproportionately on the backs of African Americans—and we see it in the harassment and excessive force that people of color routinely face by too many of our police officers.
"An unmistakable message has been sent to African Americans in this country: that they are second class citizens, and that their lives are somehow of less value. Well, let me state—clearly and unequivocally—that Black. Lives. Matter. George Floyd mattered. Breonna Taylor mattered. Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and LaQuan McDonald mattered. Rayshard Brooks mattered. And the countless other people who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement mattered.
"For far too long, pleas for justice and reform have fallen on deaf ears in Congress. But that changes today.
"The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would finally allow for meaningful accountability in cases of police misconduct and it would begin the process of reimagining policing in the 21st Century.
"This legislation makes it easier for the federal government to successfully prosecute police misconduct cases, effectively bans chokeholds, ends racial and religious profiling, encourages prosecutions independent from local police, and eliminates the dubious court-made doctrine of qualified immunity in civil rights lawsuits against law enforcement officers.
"At the same time, it works to prevent police violence and bias through a series of 'front-end' approaches aimed at encouraging departments to meet a gold standard in training, hiring, de-escalation strategies, bystander duty, use of body cameras, and other best practices.
"The bill also ends no-knock warrants in drug cases, stops the militarization of local policing, and requires the collection of data on a number of key policing matters, which would be made public—including the first-ever national database on police-misconduct incidents to prevent the movement of dangerous officers from department to department.
"It also creates a new grant program for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces on policing innovation to reimagine how public safety could work in a truly equitable and just way in each community.
"I want to thank the sponsor of this legislation, the Gentlelady from California, Ms. Bass, for her tremendous work in crafting a bill that is, at once, bold and transformative, while also taking a responsible and balanced approach to the many complicated issues associated with policing.
"I also want to thank the activists who are leading protests across the country. It is because of you that we are here today, considering the most significant reforms to policing in a generation. It is because of your energy, your determination, and your demands for justice that the nation has awakened to the need for action.
"I know that everyone in this chamber mourns those who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement. But, today is our opportunity to offer more than just sympathy. It is our opportunity to show the world that we are listening and that we will respond with real and lasting reforms.
"Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Pledges to study the problem are not enough. Half-measures are not enough. We must not let this moment slip away. If we do, it will be a terrible stain on our legacy.
"I urge all of my colleagues to support this vital legislation and I reserve the balance of my time."