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Law Enforcement Reform Should Not Result in People Being Less Safe

June 25, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) issued the following statement regarding Speaker Pelosi’s anti-policing bill up for a vote tonight:

“The vast majority of law enforcement officials are unsung heroes - good, courageous, and selfless public servants who protect our way of life. However, right now some Americans have lost confidence in our communities’ institutions. That’s why we must come together to forge a new path of unity and purpose for our nation by addressing every injustice, while still supporting the positive and equitable actions carried out each day by law enforcement,”Hartzler said.

“Speaker Pelosi’s anti-policing bill fails to do this and is the wrong approach to fostering needed reforms. While the Justice in Policing Act is well-intentioned, I could not support it in its current version because it ultimately diminishes law enforcement officials’ ability to keep our community safe and inadvertently would put many of my constituents in harm’s way by denying them safety equipment.

“This legislation ends ‘qualified immunity,’ diminishing law enforcement’s ability to make difficult decisions in dangerous and unanticipated situations and drastically increases the threat of unwarranted lawsuits against these crimefighters. This results in individual police officers having to spend time and personal resources defending themselves from unjust claims while the focus should be on keeping people safe even though law enforcement officers already can be and are often sued for enforcement actions outside legal parameters as there is no immunity for excessive police actions that violate civil rights.

“Defense attorneys regularly deploy tactics of filing frivolous, yet incredibly expensive, motions to tie up individuals in complex legal procedures. Our brave men and women in uniform, who often sacrifice higher pay and safer work environments to honorably serve our communities, should be protected for appropriately doing their job.

“This bill also significantly limits local law enforcement’s ability to obtain needed equipment that could be used to keep communities safe, counter drug operations, and bolster border security.

“If Speaker Pelosi is serious about justice reform she will work with both Republicans and Democrats on a compromise that can become law almost immediately. This week I co-sponsored the JUSTICE Act, which takes a well-reasoned approach to reforming our system while also protecting the ability of law enforcement to safely and effectively do their jobs,” Hartzler said.

Specifically, the JUSTICE Act provides guidelines to:

  • Maintain the constitutionally limited role the federal government plays in local law enforcement decisions while still affecting significant change,
  • Create an innovative system of federal grant-related incentives to ensure local and State jurisdictions cease the use of dangerous techniques such as chokeholds unless the safety of the officer is at risk,
  • Increase police access to grants for body-worn cameras,
  • Improve de-escalation training and advance best practices on the duty to intervene,
  • Make lynching a federal crime,
  • Increase penalties for false police reports,
  • Increase appropriate access to police records for hiring decisions,
  • Assist local departments with minority hiring,
  • Create two commissions to 1) give the nation a full picture of the issues facing black men and boys, and 2) undertake a thorough review of our criminal justice system

“There is bipartisan consensus that reform within our justice system is needed. I urge Speaker Pelosi to give the JUSTICE Act a fair vote on the floor of the House of Representatives to make sure criminals are the ones handcuffed, not law enforcement officials honorably protecting our communities,” Hartzler concluded.