Voterama in Congres

WASHINGTON — Here’s how Minnesota’s members of Congress voted on legislation regarding policing during the legislative week ending June 26.

HOUSE Establishing ground rules for police

The House on June 25 passed, 236 for and 181 against, a Democratic-sponsored bill (HR 7120) that would set federal rules and guidelines for law enforcement practices at all levels of government. In addition to imposing rules for the tens of thousands of federal police officers, the bill includes requirements for state and local law enforcement and uses the disbursement or threatened withholding of federal funds to encourage compliance. Congress typically delivers hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state and local law enforcement. Among its wide-ranging provisions, the bill would:

Chokeholds

Prohibit federal law enforcement from using chokeholds or other applications of pressure on the carotid arteries, throats or windpipes of persons being restrained. Financial incentives would encourage state and local police to also outlaw such tactics. The use of chokeholds based on race would be defined as a civil rights violation.

Qualified immunity

Eliminate the “qualified immunity” defense from civil federal and non-federal litigation in which a police officer is being sued for damages based on misconduct including excessive use of force. At present, accused officers can obtain immunity merely by showing their conduct was not prohibited by “clearly established law” as opposed to a specific statute or regulation.

No-knock warrants

Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, and use federal funding as leverage to persuade states and localities to bar the use of such warrants in nonfederal drug enforcement.

Misconduct registry

Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry for data on officers fired by local police departments for reasons including excessive use of force. The database could be used to identify police applicants with troublesome employment histories.

Racial profiling

Prohibit racial, religious and discriminatory profiling by federal and nonfederal law enforcement. Individuals could bring civil actions for declaratory or injunctive relief.

Use of force standard

Amend federal law to justify “use of force” on grounds it was “necessary” rather than merely “reasonable,” and use financial incentives to encourage state and local law enforcement to adopt the same standard.

Use of force reporting

Require state and local police to report use-of-force data to a new Justice Department database, breaking down the information by race, sex, disability, religion and age. Justice could also collect data on local officers’ body frisks and traffic and pedestrian stops.

Military equipment

Limit the transfer of military equipment from the Department of Defense to state and local police agencies.

Camera requirements

Require uniformed federal police to wear body cameras and marked federal police cars to mount dashboard cameras, and give local departments financial incentives to equip officers with body cameras.

Standard of evidence

Lower the criminal intent standard of evidence in police misconduct prosecutions under federal law from “willfulness” to “recklessness.”

Local commissions

Fund local commissions and task forces for developing practices based mainly on community policing rather than the use of force.

Investigating departments

Give the Department of Justice subpoena power for investigating discriminatory and brutal “patterns and practices” by local departments, and fund efforts by state attorneys general to investigate troubled municipal departments.

Accreditation

Require all 18,000 local police departments in the United States to adopt of law-enforcement accreditation standards.

Sexual misconduct

Make it a crime for a federal police officer to engage in sex, even if it is consensual, with an individual under arrest or in custody, and use financial incentives to encourage states to enact the same prohibition.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.

Minnesota

Voting yes: Angie Craig, D-2; Dean Phillips, D-3; Betty McCollum, D-4; Ilhan Omar, D-5; Collin Peterson, D-7

Voting no: Jim Hagedorn, R-1; Pete Stauber, R-8

Not voting: Tom Emmer, R-6

Rejecting Senate police bill

Voting 180 for and 236 against, the House on June 25 defeated a bid to replace a Democratic-sponsored police bill (HR 7120, above) with a less extensive proposal by Senate Republicans (below). House Republicans said the Senate bill includes far-reaching reforms and could reach President Trump’s desk this year, while Democrats called it unworthy of the Black Lives Matter movement because it lacks enforcement, omits certain reforms and favors study over action.

A yes vote was to embrace the Senate GOP police bill.

Minnesota

Voting yes: Hagedorn, Stauber

Voting no: Craig, Phillips, McCollum, Omar, Peterson

Not voting: Emmer

SENATE Blocking Republican police bill

By a vote of 55 for and 45 against, the Senate on June 24 failed to reach the 60 votes needed to advance a Republican-drafted bill aimed at improving federal, state and local policing. Democrats called the measure much weaker than their party’s proposals in the Senate and House (above). Both parties would use federal funding of law enforcement as a lever to encourage state and local compliance.

The Republican bill would prohibit chokeholds as narrowly defined, in contrast to broader Democratic language in both chambers that would outlaw the use of a range of restraints on blood flow and breathing.

The GOP bill would establish one federal commission to study policing issues especially affecting black males, and another to recommend criminal justice reforms. The bill also sought to make lynching a federal crime; require police officers to wear a body camera; establish a federal database of officers fired for misconduct in order to make it difficult for them to get rehired elsewhere; require local departments to submit details on their use of force causing death or serious injury to a federal database, and fund diversity hiring and de-escalation training.

The Republican bill omits Democratic provisions to bar or scale back the “qualified immunity” defense in civil lawsuits against police officers, and to give the Department of Justice and state attorneys general more power to investigate local police departments for “pattern and practices” abuses. The Republican bill does not include a proposed ban on racial profiling that Democrats put in their bill, nor would it scale back the militarization of local police departments.

While the GOP bill requires local police departments to submit data on their use of no-knock warrants, Democrats would prohibit no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. In another difference, Republicans would require most information in a newly established FBI database on police misconduct to be shielded from public view, while both Democratic measures would open the database to the public.

A yes vote was to advance the GOP bill to debate and votes on amendments.

Minnesota

Voting yes: None

Voting no: Tina Smith, D; Amy Klobuchar, D

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