WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) became a cosponsor of Senator Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. The legislation provides long-term solutions focused on police reform, accountability and transparency, while also promoting efforts to find solutions to systemic issues affecting people of color such as education and health disparities.

“Senator Scott is to be thanked for his commitment to police reform and his leadership on the issue,” said Senator Blackburn. “Recent events have highlighted the necessity to make changes to our current system, and the American people have made it clear that the status quo does not reflect our nation’s values. In yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, we gained insight from police chiefs and those who are charged with keeping the public safe. Police departments need more funding for training and tools to de-escalate conflict. It is my hope that the JUSTICE Act passes in the Senate with ample bipartisan support.”

“Now is the time for reform,” Senator Scott said. “The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath made clear from sea to shining sea that action must be taken to rebuild lost trust between communities of color and law enforcement. The JUSTICE Act takes smart, commonsense steps to address these issues, from ending the use of chokeholds and increasing the use of body worn cameras, to providing more resources for police departments to better train officers and make stronger hiring decisions. I want to thank Leader McConnell and the entire task force not just for their hard work on putting this bill together, but for their commitment to finding real solutions.”

The full text of the JUSTICE Act is here, and a section by section analysis is here. A summary is below.

Law Enforcement Reform

  • The JUSTICE Act strengthens the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force and the duty to intervene, providing law enforcement with new funding to do so, and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds
  • Additionally, the bill will reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve
  • The JUSTICE Act also ensures when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary records
  • Too often, after a tragic incident, we have learned the offending officer had a disciplinary past in another jurisdiction of which their current employer was unaware

Accountability

  • Studies show that when body cameras are properly used violent encounters decrease significantly
  • The JUSTICE Act will put more body cameras on the streets, and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly
  • JUSTICE also requires a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers

Transparency

  • Currently, only about 40 percent of police officers from jurisdictions nationwide report to the FBI after an incident where an officer has discharged his or her weapon or used force
  • The bill will require full reporting in these two areas
  • There is also very little data as to when, where and why no knock warrants are used, and the JUSTICE Act will require reporting in this area as well

Additional Steps

  • The JUSTICE Act will finally make lynching a federal crime
  • It also creates two 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