Explained: The Tyre Nichols death and the renewed calls for George Floyd Justice in Policing Act


The brutal killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee at the hands of five police officers has caused outrage among the public — there are protests taking place across the country — with many calling for reforms in law enforcement.

After the five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr — were charged with second-degree murder, the Memphis Police has disbanded the Scorpion Unit to which they belonged. On Monday, two more Memphis police officers have been relieved of their duties while three emergency responders have been fired, widening the circle of punishment for the shocking display of police brutality after video showed many more people failed to help him beyond the five officers accused of beating him to death.

There are growing calls from the American public for reforms in the US police, with Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Nichols family, urging Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. “Shame on us if we don’t use his tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed,” he told CNN.

As protests continue to rage in the US with more people joining the fight against US police brutality — data shows that at least 1,176 people were killed by the police in 2022, making it the deadliest year on record since 2013 — let’s take a closer look at what is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and how it could help in changing the American law enforcement system.

What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?

In June 2020, America was on fire; millions of people were out on the streets, angered by the deaths of George Floyd by then-Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin and the deaths of other Black Americans, such as Breonna Taylor, Daniel Prude, and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police officers.

Reacting to these killings, the Democrats introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 in the US House of Representatives in February 2021. The legislation sought to combat police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing.

The legislation was primarily drafted by Representative Karen Bass of California and addressed a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability.

The legislation was name after George Floyd — who is also believed to be the catalyst behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement that shook America and the world.

What the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would do?

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act aims to ban certain police techniques and introduce more accountability. It also seeks to improve police training and invest in community programs designed to improve policing.

To curtail deaths, the legislation bans federal law enforcement from using chokeholds like the one that ended Floyd’s life. It also bans no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. Incidentally, a no-knock warrant led to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by the police in Louisville, Kentucky in 2020.

The legislation also ends ‘qualified immunity’ to law enforcement officers. This ‘qualified immunity protects law enforcement officials from civil lawsuits. The bill also makes it easier to prosecute police officers.

The bill also prohibits racial, religious and discriminatory profiling by law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels and mandate training against such discriminatory profiling. It also mandate that police officials wear body cameras and mandates that all marked federal police vehicles use dashboard cameras.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act also allows for the creation of a national police misconduct registry to prevent police officers who are fired or pushed out for bad performance from being hired by other agencies.

Furthermore, it also addresses police militarisation by limiting how much military-grade equipment is awarded to state and local law enforcement agencies.

What is the status of the bill?

The House of Representatives passed The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March 2021, but the legislation has stalled in the Senate.

Several Republicans argue that the police think there are better solutions that haven’t been included in the bill. In fact, they came up with their own new legislation — the JUSTICE Act — which focused heavily on data collection about police use of force and more documentation of police misconduct, and was much narrower than Democrats’ proposal.

One of the major sticking points over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the issue of qualified immunity. Democrats are determined to remove such protection, but the Republicans argue that in doing so, police officials would be vulnerable to lawsuits.

Now, with the Tyre Nichols case, the spotlight is back on the legislation with more people demanding that it be passed into law.

Derrick Johnson, the president of National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), has urged lawmakers to pass the bill. “By failing to write a piece of legislation, you’re writing another obituary,” Johnson said in a statement. “We can name all the victims of police violence, but we can’t name a single law you have passed to address it.”

With inputs from agencies

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Explained: The Tyre Nichols death and the renewed calls for George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
Explained: The Tyre Nichols death and the renewed calls for George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
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