MADISON, WI—As the nation mourns the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans at the hands of police violence, Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) is introducing the Police Training and Accountability Act. The bill would establish a national training standard for all law enforcement officers and a Civilian-Law Enforcement Bill of Rights for anyone having contact with law enforcement. A civilian commission would be named to set standards of training for police, to bridge the wide gaps of what training for law enforcement looks like nationwide. The act would require federal funding to police departments to be contingent on these standards being met.
“The police violence we’ve seen in the past month is tolerated long before it is called out, and the people of this country are fed up with systemic racial injustice constantly being met with inaction,” said Congressman Pocan. “Everyone needs to believe that all law enforcement officers have met national standardized requirements for training and civilian interaction. Federal dollars should not go to police that communities simply do not trust. From de-escalation to use of lethal force, police nationwide must meet new standards before they receive additional funding from the federal government.”
The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG), is the largest source of federal funds for state and local law enforcement agencies—$547.2 million were appropriated for the program in FY2020. The Police Accountability and Funding Act would require those federal funds to be conditional on police departments meeting the training requirement and standards created by a civilian commission. Those requirements must include, at minimum, standards for: a minimum level of education attainment and training hours, use of force, use of lethal force, implicit bias, conflict resolution, mediation, and de-escalation practices, pursuit, video technology, stop and search procedures, and intervention programs.
The bill would also require police departments to adhere to a Civilian-Law Enforcement Bill of Rights prior to receiving any Byrne JAG funding.
“Communities should not only understand what to expect from interactions with law enforcement, but they should have a voice in setting those expectations,” said Pocan. “A Civilian-Law Enforcement Bill of Rights lays out national standards and expectations for anyone in contact with law enforcement, no matter where they live in our country. We need equal enforcement of the law for everyone.”
“From Florida to Washington, Maine to California, there should be a common standard for law enforcement. We cannot continue to fund new initiatives for police departments to improve while the same systemic problems continue,” continued Pocan. “Police departments nationwide must use existing funds to meet these new standards. Law enforcement must be held accountable to the standards of the community they are tasked to serve and protect. Anything less is a continuation of injustice.”
See the full text of the bill here.