(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – As the nation marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Mike Brown and the beginning of the historic Ferguson uprising, Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-08) joined Reps. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-01) and Ro Khanna (CA-17) in introducing the PEACE Act, which would prohibit the use of deadly force byfederal law enforcement officers unless necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others.
This groundbreaking legislation to reform the use of deadly force would also require states who wish to continue receiving public safety funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to enact similar legislation to require a comparable standard for local police officers. The federal effort builds on California’s historic legislation (AB 392, "Act to Save Lives") enshrining the “necessity” standard.
The excessive use of deadly force by local police officers remains an urgent issue across the country. Five years after Ferguson, African Americans are still disproportionately affected as they make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for25 percent of people fatally shot by police.This legislation addresses one of the root causes of the problem – the lack of any legal obligation for police officers to use deadly force only as a last resort. Thecurrent legal standard gives nearly unfettered discretion to police over their use of deadly force, as long as they claim to perceive a threat, even if there were other available options to de-escalate the situation.
Evidence indicates that a “necessity” standard for use of force yields results for citizens and police officers alike. After the Seattle Police Department was required by President Obama’s Justice Department to change its use of force standard to one of necessity in 2012, a comprehensivereport found that the rate of injuries to officers remained flat or went down slightly, demonstrating that “decreased use of force has not placed officers at any higher risk or made officers less able or willing to use force to defend themselves from threats or harm.” Meanwhile, there was a net decrease of 743 incidents -- a 60 percent drop -- in the use of moderate and high-level use of force.
“The PEACE Act makes a clear, simple, and yet in too many cases life-saving change,” said Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “By changing the standard for the acceptable use of force, we will be requiring law enforcement agents to try other options rather than immediately resorting to the reactionary use of lethal force. Furthermore, by incentivizing states and localities to require policies that emphasize non-lethal tactics, the PEACE Act will be spreading its effective ability to enforce the law without the needless taking of lives. Upon enactment, the PEACE Act will help rebuild the trust and perception of integrity between diverse communities and the law enforcement officers whose crucial job it is to protect and serve them. This trust and the presence of integrity is essential.”
The bill is endorsed by: National Action Network (NAN), NAACP, ACLU, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP – Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Amnesty International, Drug Policy Alliance, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action.
Original Cosponsors are: Rep. Lacy Clay (MO-1), Rep. Bobby Rush (IL-1), Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2), Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-5), Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY-19), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-1), Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (IL-4), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Rep. Andre Carson (IN-7), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2), Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-7).