Capito, Fischer, Kelly join GOP colleagues to introduce policing reform legislation

U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Deb Fischer, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), are among dozens of original Republican cosponsors who recently unveiled a bicameral bill that would improve and reform the nation’s policing practices, accountability and transparency.

Sens. Capito and Fischer on June 17 joined 44 of their colleagues in cosponsoring the Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, S. 3985, with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), while Rep. Kelly on June 18 joined 121 GOP members in cosponsoring the companion H.R. 7278 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN).

“The past few weeks have been a traumatic and eye-opening experience for our nation,” Rep. Kelly said on Thursday. “The death of George Floyd and others has spurred a necessary conversation about transparency, accountability and race relations within our nation.”

In conversations Rep. Kelly has had with community leaders and western Pennsylvania police chiefs, he said everyone agrees on the need for improvement.

“Among other things, the JUSTICE Act will increase training for law enforcement officers, expand the use of body cameras, and ensure that cops who violate the law are held accountable,” he said.

If enacted, the sweeping legislation would strengthen the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, and ending the practice of utilizing chokeholds, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers, which noted the bill also would authorize new funding for law enforcement to make such changes.

“It is our job in Congress to listen to voices across our country and heed calls for justice. That does not mean defunding the police. The answer is to improve policing, not to defund or eliminate it,” Sen. Capito said. “This is what the JUSTICE Act does: makes significant improvements to our nation’s law enforcement system.”

Regarding accountability, the measure would put more body cameras on the streets and ensure that departments are using the cameras and storing their data properly, according to the bill summary, and would require a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers.

“There is absolutely no conflict between being pro-civil rights and being pro-law enforcement,” said Sen. Capito. “The JUSTICE Act supports our police officers while bringing about positive change that will help guarantee equal protection to all of our citizens. This police reform bill will make a real difference in advancing our constitutional ideals and in making our communities safer.”

Under the bill, reporting also would be required from jurisdictions nationwide to the FBI after an incident occurred in which an officer discharged his or her weapon or used force. The bill also would require reporting on when, where and why no-knock warrants are used, according to the summary.

Additionally, the JUSTICE Act would make lynching a federal crime and authorize two new commissions to study and offer solutions to a broader range of challenges facing black men and boys, and the criminal justice system as a whole.

“In the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd, I have been listening for solutions on how to restore necessary trust between the police and the communities they protect,” said Sen. Fischer. “The JUSTICE ACT includes solid reforms to increase accountability in policing, while helping police departments improve their hiring and training processes.

“By passing this legislation, we can work to heal our nation and ensure that all Americans have equal protection under the law, regardless of skin color,” Sen. Fischer added.