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Democrats unveil police reform bill

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Democrats unveil police reform bill

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key provisions and significance of the bill, need for this bill.

Context: Top US congressional Democrats have unveiled a bill- the Justice in Policing Act- to overhaul police practices as Americans gather daily to protest excessive use of force and systemic racism.

The legislation would make sweeping changes designed both to deter police use of force and hold officers more accountable for abuses. 

The legislation now needs support from Republicans.


This comes two weeks after the death of George Floyd, the black, unarmed man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The incident sparked nationwide furor over sustained brutality against black Americans.

The bill proposes to:

  1. Reform “qualified immunity” for officers, making it easier for people whose constitutional rights were violated to recover damages
  2. Change the federal standard of criminal police behavior from “willful” to acting “knowingly or with reckless disregard,” to address the difficulty of prosecuting officers
  3. Start a federal registry of police misconduct and require states to report use of force to the U.S. Justice Department
  4. Ban police use of chokeholds and carotid holds, and condition funding for state and local departments on barring the practices
  5. Stop the use of “no-knock” search warrants in drug cases in the U.S., while also making state and local money contingent on stopping use of the warrants
  6. Give the Justice Department subpoena power to carry out “pattern and practice” investigations into police department conduct
  7. Provide state attorneys general with grants to carry out pattern and practice probes and create a process for independent investigations into uses of force
  8. Require training on racial bias and implicit bias at the federal level, and condition state and local funding on offering training
  9. Curb transfers of military-grade weapons to state and local police
  10. Classify lynching as a federal hate crime


Racism in the USA:

Despite the civil war over slavery, and the civil rights movement for dignity and equality, systemic discrimination and violence against blacks persists. Racism continues unabated.

What is Racism?

Racism is a systematic ideology, a complex set of beliefs and practices that, on the presumed basis of biology, divides humanity into the ‘higher’ us and a lower ‘them’.

What can it lead to?

It not only sustains a permanent group hierarchy but deeply stigmatises those designated as inferior. This sense of hierarchy provides a motive for say, whites to treat blacks in ways that would be viewed as cruel or unjust if applied to members of their own group. For instance, contact with them is often regarded as contaminating, polluting.

It should therefore be avoided or kept to a minimum.

Racism naturalises a person’s belief, character and culture. For example, being uneducated is seen not as socio-economic deprivation but a sign of inherited low IQ; blacks are predatory and are also seen to have an innate streak of savagery, which unless kept down by brute force from time to time, might explode and destroy civilisation.

Need of the hour:

Only a peaceful movement to end institutionalised racism, with both blacks and white participants, quite like the recent protests after Floyd’s murder, can break the back of this evil.


Prelims Link:

  1. Presidential vs Parliamentary form of Govt.
  2. How the President of USA is elected?
  3. US president vs PM of India- Key differences.

Sources: the Hindu.