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Thune: Proud to Support JUSTICE Act Police Reform Bill

“We must continue to work toward a more perfect union. Toward the full realization of our founding promise that all men are created equal. Toward an America where there is truly liberty and justice for all.”

June 17, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, which addresses various aspects of policing reform. The JUSTICE Act would provide funding to improve police officer training, hiring, and the use of body worn cameras. It would also discourage the use of certain techniques and practices by leveraging federal funds, call for the development of best policing practices, and require additional reporting on issues such as use of force. Thune is a cosponsor of the JUSTICE Act.

Click here or on the picture above to watch Thune’s speech.

Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:

“Mr. President, in the wake of the recent tragic deaths of several African-Americans at the hands of the police, our country has reached a turning point. 

“Americans of every race, background, and political persuasion are calling for change.

“Too many Americans feel unsafe right now.

“Too many Americans live in fear that what happened to George Floyd could happen to their own fathers and sons and brothers.

“Too many Americans see in law enforcement officers individuals to be feared rather than trusted.

“Americans are ready for all that to end.

“They want reform and increased accountability.

“They want to make sure that we are holding our law enforcement officers to the highest standards.

“And they want their fellow Americans to feel confident that what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others will not happen to their loved ones.

“Mr. President, members of Congress have been listening.

“I have been listening.  

“And today I am proud to rise in support of Senator Scott’s policing reform bill, which I am co-sponsoring.

“Senator Scott’s Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act – or JUSTICE Act – is the product of a lot of serious work – years of it, in fact.

“The JUSTICE Act is an extensive bill that addresses various aspects of policing reform.

“One important section of the bill is the George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, which would correct deficiencies in law enforcement reporting of use-of-force incidents.

“Right now, the FBI National Use of Force Data Collection only receives data on about 40 percent of law enforcement officers.

“That needs to change.

“The only way we can understand the scope of the problems we’re facing is to have full and accurate data.

“A complete data picture will allow us to pinpoint problems, identify troubled police departments, and develop best practices for use-of-force and de-escalation training.

“There are many, many police departments across our nation that are doing an exemplary job of policing, that have excellent relationships with the community, and that are already implementing a lot of best practices.

“But there are also more troubled police departments. 

“Police departments that fail to train their officers properly or overlook officer misbehavior.

“And we need to identify those police departments and demand their reform. 

“Collecting full and accurate data on use-of-force incidents will help us do that.

“Mr. President, one policing measure that has been found to reduce both officers’ use of force and complaints against police officers is body cameras.

“Body-worn cameras record every officer interaction with the community, which encourages appropriate behavior and helps to create an accurate record of events.

“These cameras keep both citizens and police officers safer.

“But implementing the use of these cameras can be costly, as can storing the copious data that accumulates.

“So the JUSTICE Act will create a new grant program to help local police departments purchase body-worn cameras and associated data storage.

“Funding eligibility will be conditional on the department’s implementation of best practices for these cameras, and any department that fails to properly use the cameras it has purchased using the grant program will face a reduction in federal funding.

“Another important section of the JUSTICE Act focuses on police de-escalation and duty-to-intervene training.

“Sometimes police end up using force in situations where it could have been avoided simply because they lack the necessary training to de-escalate a situation without the use of force.

“It may be understandable that well-meaning but overwhelmed police officers in dangerous circumstances have sometimes resorted to the use of force too quickly.

“But that’s not a situation we can accept.

“Every police officer in this country should be given the kind of training that will ensure that use of force is restricted only to those situations where it is absolutely needed.

“Mr. President, I expect to see a lot of support for this bill from my Republican colleagues here in the Senate.

“And I wouldn’t be surprised if this bill receives a lot of support from law enforcement as well.

“Because, Mr. President, most of our nation’s law enforcement officers want to implement policing best practices.

“They want to develop strong relationships with the communities they protect.

“They want to avoid use-of-force incidents that place both officers and suspects in jeopardy.

“I met with local law enforcement leaders in my home state of South Dakota last Friday, and what I heard from them was a real desire to do everything they can to serve every member of their communities.

“They’ve already been participating in forums to listen to community concerns in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“And they’re supportive of JUSTICE Act measures to help departments expand their minority hiring, to improve de-escalation training, to develop and promulgate best practices.  

“So I wouldn’t be surprised if they and a lot of other law enforcement agencies end up backing this bill.

“I really hope Democrats will come to the table.

“Senator Scott has produced a bill that should have the support of every member of the Senate.

“I hope that it will.

“Mr. President, we’ve made a lot of progress as a nation when it comes to overcoming the sins of our past.

“But it would be a mistake to think that because we’ve made progress our work is over.

“There is still much to be done and many wounds to heal.

“And we must make those tasks a priority.

“We must continue to work toward a more perfect union.

“Toward the full realization of our founding promise that all men are created equal.

“Toward an America where there is truly liberty and justice for all.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”