The Democrat leadership announced Monday, June 8, that it would put forward a Justice in Policing Act in response to the protests and riots that have shaken cities across America. While a certain amount of showboating was expected, the theatrics and canned emotion suggested that this was more an exercise in vote gathering and damage control than a genuine effort at structural reform.
The act (not yet released at the time of writing) purports to be the written incarnation of Congress “standing with those fighting for justice and taking action,” according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). But is this a well-reasoned piece of law that has looked into all aspects of police brutality and the relationship between the police and the policed, or is it a cobbled-together effort to keep potentially wayward Democrats inside without damaging Joe Biden’s electoral chances?
The Meat or the Donuts?
Pelosi outlined the act’s basic content:
“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative, structural change, which is why the Justice in Policing Act will remove barriers in prosecuting police misconduct in covering damages by addressing the quality [sic] immunity doctrine, it will demilitarize the police by limiting the transfer of military weaponry to state and local police departments, it will combat police brutality by requiring body and dashboard cameras, banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants in drug cases, and ending racial profiling. [It] will finally make lynching a federal hate crime.”
Despite her error on “qualified” immunity, this reads like a wish list of ideas that was hammered out on a whiteboard while handing out the morning donuts. However, this does not mean that it will not go down well with her Republican colleagues.
Some GOP lawmakers have already made a case for elements of this act to be implemented, and the grand sweep of reforms it covers will certainly be a starting panacea for activist groups intent on continuing protests.
Is this a genuine attempt by Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to heal the wounds of a damaged society, or is it merely a sop to control the wayward wing of their fractured party?
Quit the Abolish Talk!
Senior politicians around the country are heeding calls from protesters to begin defunding the police in their home cities. With the Minneapolis City Council voting to abolish the police force entirely, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowing to cut NYPD funding for the first time, leading Democrats must be questioning whether these decisions are going to hurt them at the ballot box in November.
When even CNN runs a headline asking “Is ‘Defund the Police’ a Massive Political Mistake?,” perhaps more moderate voices need to take notice.
It appears that this proposed legislation is designed with only one purpose in mind: Calm the extremists in the party. If notable Democrats across the country start calling for the abolition of the thin blue line, Biden can kiss any chance of taking a seat in the Oval Office goodbye. In the wake of the 1968 riots, Richard Nixon swooped into power largely on a strong law-and-order ticket – it’s a winning formula that Democrats know could well be repeated in 2020. If they want any hope of victory, Democrats need to appeal to the majority, not the noisy minority intent on burning the system to the ground.
The Justice in Policing Act may well be the solution to recent troubling events, but actions taken in haste all too often allow time for repentance at leisure.
Read more from Mark Angelides.