(WASHINGTON, D.C.)— On Friday, the Committee on Oversight and Reform held a briefing examining how systemic racism and discrimination deeply rooted in America’s history have led to abusive policing practices, and the long overdue need for reform at the federal level.

“The national reckoning with systemic racism in policing is long overdue,” said Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney at the briefing.  “We have known the truth of police brutality for years.  We must not let this moment pass without sweeping reform.  I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to embrace this moment and heed the calls of a mournful nation.”

“1 in 1,000 Black men and boys will be killed by police over a lifetime, a risk 2.5 times higher than that of a white man,” said Chairman Raskin.  “Police encounters are a leading cause of death for young Black men. It is no wonder that protesters across the nation are demanding decisive action and rallying behind the cry of ‘Black Lives Matter.’  This is a pandemic of violence, and Congress must address take urgent and sweeping steps at the federal level to stop the spread.”

“The fact of the matter is, racism is not simply a point of view,” said Representative Ayanna Pressley. “It is not a point of view or the actions of a few bad apples. It is as structural as the marble pillars of this institution.  The man-made discriminatory policies that have destroyed Black lives and Black families in this country were very precise. From the original sin of bondage to redlining to the failed war on drugs.  So in this moment, we need our policy solutions to be just as specific and precise in legislating our healing and justice.  The culmination of generations of hurt and trauma have led us to this moment.  It is not enough to say Black Lives Matter. Our policies and our budgets must value Black Lives.”

The Committee heard from Keturah Herron, policy strategist with ACLU Kentucky; Cephus “Uncle Bobby X” Johnson, the Uncle of Oscar Grant, who was senselessly murdered in 2009 by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer in Oakland, California, and Co-Founder of Families United for Justice and the Love Not Blood Campaign; Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor and Co-Founder and Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum; Marq Lewis, Founder of We the People of Oklahoma; and Pastor Michael McBride, Director of the LIVE FREE Campaign.

On Thursday, the House will vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a bold, comprehensive approach to transform the culture of policing to address systemic racism and help save lives as it holds police accountable and increases transparency.  It will ban chokeholds, stop no-knock drug warrants, end qualified immunity, and establish a nationwide police misconduct database. 

The briefers made the following points during their presentations:

Federal legislation, like the Justice in Police Act, is urgently needed to end systemic racism and discrimination in policing practices.

  • Mr. Johnson said, “It is critical that we first acknowledge the pressing need for a national legislative approach to local policing agency change, and urgently begin the process of reimagining today’s police culture, enlisting those who value the sanctity of life and the protection of human rights.”
  • Ms. Herron said, “It is always the time to do what is right and I believe now is the time for our federal government to take action and prohibit police policies and practices that brutalize communities.”  

After centuries of abuse, Black Americans are crying out for meaningful action to address this nation’s history of racism.

  • Mr. Johnson described the gruesome killing of his nephew Oscar Grant:  “There is no horror comparable to watching your loved one be murdered.  That horror is forever etched in your memory, perhaps because it could have been prevented.”
  • Mr. Lewis said, “People are tired.  We’ve talked about the institution of racism, which is the foundation of this country.”
  • Ms. Crenshaw said, “For so long, the idea was because it’s happening out of sight, out of mind, we can’t really get society to look seriously at the problem.  Well, for two weeks, every day, seven days a week, there was plenty to see.”

We must change police culture in order to prevent the loss of more Black lives.  

  • Pastor McBride said, “The culture of policing turns too many good people into bad officers and we must reckon with this ugly truth that with 300 years of policing we have yet to reach a consensus in this country that you cannot be a racist and be a cop.”
  • Ms. Crenshaw said, “It may well be that there are a few bad apples in the sense that there are those who are willing to resort to violence in circumstances that are quite questionable.  The institutionalized dimension of it is the fact that that kind of behavior is not punished, but it is rewarded.”