By Miriam Raftery
Photo, left, by Henri Migala: protest in La Mesa on May 30 called for justice for George Floyd
May 7, 2021 (San Diego) – San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to endorse the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a federal police reform measure aimed at improving law enforcement accountability and addressing racial disparities. Supervisors split 3-2 on the issue, with East County Supervisors Jim Desmond and Joel Anderson opposed while Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas supported the action.
If enacted by Congress, H.R. 1280 would:
- Create a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by police at federal, state and local levels;
- Lower the criminal intent standard (from willful to knowing or reckless) to convict an officer of misconduct in federal prosecutions
- Limit qualified immunity as a defense in private civil suits against officers;
- Limits unnecessary use of force and restricts use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds.
- Grant the Dept. of Justice administrative subpoena power in pattern-or-practice investigations;
- Creates a National Police Misconduct Registry on complaints and records of police misconduct and establishes new reporting requirements.
- Directs the Dept. of Justice to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies and requires officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force.
The measure has passed the House of Representatives and is now awaiting action in the U.S. Senate. The legislation comes after a wave of high-profile killings of unarmed black individuals by police, most prominently George Floyd, whose death led to a murder conviction for Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“Supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the right thing for our country to do,” said Supervisor Fletcher, adding that the board declared racism a public health crisis earlier this year.
But Supervisor Desmond said that while he backs improving accountability for police officers and transparency, he is concerned that reducing immunity for police could result in more lawsuits, costing taxpayers money.
About a dozen speakers spoke in favor of the measure at the Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday.
Civil rights leader Shane Harris (photo, right), president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, applauded Supervisors for going on record to support federal police reform legislation that would address “many of the longstanding inequities Black Americans and other minorities have faced with bad policing in our country.” Harris calls for actions from the local to federal levels to address “the longstanding epidemic of bad policing.”
He concludes, “Bad policing will continue to cost taxpayers and lives if we don't address the policing culture and this federal legislation would change some foundational parts of policing and create more accountability and transparency. Today San Diego took a step in the right direction of history."