National Action Network calls JUSTICE Act ‘woefully inadequate'

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 1:01 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 1:02 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The National Action Network said the JUSTICE Act U.S. Sen. Tim Scott introduced in the Senate last week does not go far enough in police reform.

The group held a news conference Tuesday morning to denounce the legislation.

“The Senate Republican bill named the Justice Act is woefully inadequate in addressing long standing issues of police misconduct and state sanctioned violence,” the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III said. “The legislation fails to pay down the measurable debt to justice created by our nation’s legacy of systemic racism. While we appreciate Senator Scott’s efforts. The proposal does not go nearly far enough to offer the bold comprehensive changes necessary to achieve the transformation and increased police accountability that this moment in time.”

Rivers said the JUSTICE Act is not a police reform bill “because it does not include meaningful measures to hold either law enforcement officers and police departments accountable for using or permitting the use of excessive force.”

“It does not bring enough measures to rule them accountable,” Rivers said. “The bill does not remove qualified immunity, as a defense or immunity does not criminalize the reckless use of excessive force and does not expand the authority to conduct pattern and practice investigations.”

Rivers also called for “no-knock warrants” to be outlawed. “No-knock” search warrants allow police officers to enter a home without first announcing their presence.

“There is no reason to burst into someone’s house without identifying yourself as unexpected that should be satisfactory,” Rivers said.

He also called for the end of chokeholds and the “excessive use of force” by police departments. Rivers also repeated a long-standing call for the North Charleston Police Department to conduct a racial bias audit.

Rivers insisted the group is not against police.

“We are against bad policing and we know that every police department has some bad apples. As we’ve said before, bad apples that are left in the bowel will destroy the barrel. We need the bad apples to go,” Rivers said. “We cannot allow you just to say, ‘We’re gonna do better.' We need to have a process by which you will do better.”

Representatives of the family of Walter Scott, who was fatally shot by a former North Charleston Police officer in 2015, also attended the news conference.

FILE  - In this May 7, 2020, file photo, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during a Senate Health...
FILE - In this May 7, 2020, file photo, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on new coronavirus tests on Capitol Hill in Washington. Senate Republicans are poised to unveil an extensive package of policing changes that includes new restrictions on police choke holds and other practices as President Donald Trump signals his support following the mass demonstrations over the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans. Scott, the sole African American Republican in the Senate, has been crafting the package set to roll out Wednesday.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File)

Scott visited North Charleston Monday afternoon with Gov. Henry McMaster to discuss key points of the proposed bill.

Scott said the first step in his proposal is reform and the second is accountability.

He said we must understand where we go as a nation “in this very important moment as it relates to the necessary relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.”

"What is not necessary is a binary choice in that relationship," he said. "We don't have to be either for law enforcement, or for communities of color. We have learned at home, and we're trying to teach the world that you can actually be for both."

“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,” a release from Scott’s office states. “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.”

A provision of the act also ensures that when a law enforcement officer candidate is interviewed, the hiring agency will have access to the candidate’s prior disciplinary records.

The JUSTICE Act will also put more body cameras on the streets and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly. It will also require a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers.

The bill would make lynching a federal crime and create 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.

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