Nearly two years after the death of George Floyd, the United States has reached a crossroads. Many of the activist approved police reforms have proven to be failures at crime prevention, and in fact, have made most cities in which they are enacted more dangerous. Despite this reality, “police reform” efforts remain a top priority for liberal legislators at every level of government.
Below are five pieces of legislation which have been introduced in various parts of the country, the majority of which look to further the left’s police reform efforts at the state and local level, while the last on this list looks at federal legislation recently introduced in Congress.
Pittsburgh, PA – Police Data for Bias
A bill recently introduced by the Pittsburgh City Council seeks to discover racial bias in local policing. 90.5 WESA reports that the city would partner with nonprofit organization, Policing Equity Inc. “The city would share data on such areas of policing as vehicle and pedestrian stops, arrests and use of force” with the organization.
Councilor Corey O’Connor said, “I think it’s good to be open with the general public as to what’s going on in their neighborhoods, in their city,” following the announcement of the bill.
Vermont – Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Officers
The Vermont General Assembly will soon be voting on a bill which would effectively end qualified immunity in the state.
According to the text of Senate bill S.254, it “proposes to create a private right of action against law enforcement officers for violations of Vermont constitutional, statutory, and common law rights. This bill also 10 proposes to waive the use of qualified immunity as a defense.”
Local publication, The Bennington Banner, notes that “the legislation is opposed by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and by major police agencies in Vermont…”
Maryland – Marijuana Referendum
Two bills geared toward the legalization of marijuana in the state of Maryland, may end up leading to serious law enforcement gray areas.
“The House of Delegates is considering two measures — House Bill 1, which would establish a referendum this November, and House Bill 837, which would create a regulatory framework for a marijuana industry. As currently drafted, the second bill wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2023,” reports WTOP News.
While the drug’s legalization is up to the voters of Maryland, the large gap between the referendum and the regulatory framework could create a legal quandary leading to unnecessary arrests and prosecutions, critics point out.
Chris Goldstein, of the cannabis activist group NORML, says “I think the confusion — the dangerous confusion — isn’t among consumers. I think there’s a dangerous confusion among the police and prosecutors out there. The problem is the police are still enforcing prohibition. I think they need a clearer directive.”
Washington State – Permissible Uses of Force by Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers
In 2021, the legislature of Washington state passed E2SHB 1310 in response to activist pressure at the height of the Defund movement. This bill sought to greatly curtail “use of force” capabilities for law enforcement officers. But like many of the actions taken by state and local governments during this time, the consequences of this bill led to spikes in crime locally.
As noted by Gig Harbor, Washington Police Chief, Kelly Busey, this legislation clouded permissible use of force to the point of paralyzing police activities.
“And there was no clear definition in the final version of the new law. For example, is it use of force if you escort a suspect by the arm…(it) eliminates our ability to use any level of force in a mental health crisis. We can’t even put the person on a gurney.”
Now the state legislature has been forced to respond with revisions to E2SHB 1310.
According to Gig Harbor Now, the new legislation, ESB 5919, “stipulates that physical force ‘does not include pat downs, incidental touching, verbal commands or compliant handcuffing.’”
Furthermore, it extends necessary use of force to include:
“…when it’s necessary to protect against criminal conduct where there is probable cause to make an arrest; to effect an arrest; to prevent an escape; to effect an investigative detention; to protect against an imminent threat of injury to the officer, another person or the person against whom force is being used.”
The new law would go into effect immediately following the signature of the state’s governor.
Federal “No-Knock” Legislation
No-knock warrants have been a controversial issue in recent years following high profile deaths during their executions in various cities. The latest incident involved the death of Amir Locke, who was killed while Minneapolis police executed a search-warrant at an address Locke was sleeping at. While Locke was not named in the warrant, police body-cam footage reveals he had been holding a legally possessed firearm when police entered the room. While the exact details of the case are not currently known, police maintain that Locke was pointing the weapon at them as they announced their presence before fatally shooting him.
In response to this incident, the Mayor of Minneapolis called for a moratorium on the use of no-know warrants, and now Congressional Representatives, including Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, are calling for a nation-wide ban on them.
At the beginning of March, Congresswoman Omar introduced the “The Amir Locke End Deadly No-Knock Warrants Act.” If passed, the legislation would:
“…establish strict limitations on the use of the warrants, which allow police to enter properties without warning in drug-related investigations.
The proposed legislation will also place bans on quick-knock warrants, all nighttime warrants, the use of flash-bang stun grenades, chemical weapons, or any military-grade firearm,” according to The Hill.
There is a political struggle going on in America today and the lines are being drawn at the Constitution. From the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws, or gun rights, and the constant overreach of government on the 2nd Amendment, there has been a wayward shift from Constitutional norms in much of today’s governance.
Image Credit: Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash