Merkley, Booker introduce police misconduct database legislation
June 7, 2020
By Sen. Jeff Merkley
Black Lives Matter.The fact that this statement needs to be said, that this movement needs to exist, speaks volumes about our country.
We are in the midst of a new civil rights movement because more than half a century after courageous patriots shamed America into outlawing Jim Crow, legal discrimination and racism continue to define America's institutions. Black men, women, and children's lives are still regularly taken from us by police officers.
I am inspired by the strength, courage, and perseverance of today's patriots who are marching and protesting to force America to look in the mirror. I join them in saying Black Lives Matter. I join them in saying their names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Michael Brown, and far too many others.
I also recognize that I have been given the responsibility and opportunity to do more.
It is not enough to simply say, "Black Lives Matter." Our laws must ensure that Black lives actually matter; and when those lives are attacked or taken, that those responsible are held accountable. We must bend toward justice.
On Friday, I proposed legislation—which I'll be joining Senator Cory Booker to introduce—that will create a national database for police misconduct.
When a police officer loses their job due to excessive violence, racial bias, or other misconduct, they should not be able to quietly slip away and find a new job in another town down the road or across the country. When cities and counties (and universities and private security companies) hire police, they should be able to find out if those they're hiring have engaged in misconduct.
This is only a start.
We must also ban chokeholds and other oxygen-depriving tactics nationwide, and identify them as civil rights violations. We must engage in nationwide data collection to determine how often and against whom force—whether justified or unjustified—is used. We must require civilian oversight. We must end no-knock warrants. We must end the transfer of battlefield armaments to civilian police agencies. We must end qualified immunity for police officers who engage in bad behavior. We must outlaw racial profiling and build systems to ensure it actually stops.
Even this long list is only a start. We must do more.
To all those marching in the streets, to all those demanding change from home, to all those contributing to this cause in every way they can, I say this:
I see you. I hear you. I am with you.
As a United States Senator, I have the extraordinary privilege to work every day to change our laws. But I also recognize that I owe an enormous debt to you, Graham, and so many others who helped put me in this position so that I can do this work.
And I—and all of us—owe an enormous debt to all those who are building this movement, championing these ideas, and—far too often—sacrificing their bodies for this cause.
We cannot fix racism overnight. We cannot end the misuse of violence by police overnight.
But that does not mean that we cannot try. We must take action, and we must start now.
We, the People, will build a more perfect union. We will bend toward justice.