Dozens of civil rights groups led by Black people have united in opposition against a new set of policing bills proposed by Congressional Democrats that would provide a significant amount of funding to local and national law enforcement agencies.
The groups that include Black Voters Matter and the Advancement Project are specifically calling on members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to resist supporting the bills being touted by progressive and moderate Democrats. However, that request may be more of a daunting task than expected since at least two prominent CBC members have shown their support for the bills.
Democrats on Wednesday announced they reached bipartisan deals to pass the bills that include the Invest to Protect Act (H.R. 6448) and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) on the Beat Grant Program Reauthorization and Parity Act of 2022 (H.R. 6375), both of which promise to fund and invest in U.S. police departments in various ways. On Thursday, the bills passed the House.
The Associated Press reported that CBC Chairwoman and Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar all played instrumental roles in negotiating the bills.
Among those who don’t think the answer to police reform is pumping more money into police departments are the aforementioned Black-led groups who have emphasized how officers have continued to kill Black people, in particular, with impunity.
More than 50 civil rights organizations on Wednesday penned a letter to the CBC making a strong case for the influential bloc of Black Congressmen and women to oppose House Resolutions 6375 and 6448 along with “any other bills that would make multi-million dollar investments in police departments.”
“As militarized policing continues to result in the harassment, incarceration, and even murder of Black people, Congress should not pass legislation that would unlock new resources for unaccountable policing practices,” the letter said in part before adding later: “Black people are being unjustly killed at the hands of police in jurisdictions across the nation – and no one is ever held accountable for their murders.”
It was not immediately clear whether Beatty received the letter, but she did say she knows the bills won’t please everybody.
“We know that improving our nation’s broken system of policing requires both resources and accountability measures,” Beatty said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “Thanks to the leadership of Congressional Black Caucus members and other House Democrats who have worked tirelessly on this issue, this package includes vital provisions for mental health, prioritizes the needs of victims, and will work to end the cycle of violence in our communities. At a time when Americans have genuine concerns about the reliability and effectiveness of our police, the American public can count on the Congressional Black Caucus to continue to push for public safety.”
Rep. Omar, who barely won her primary election last month in part because — critics and supporters said — of her prior stated opposition to funding the police, seems to have relaxed her stance on the topic.
“With this package, House Democrats have the opportunity to model a holistic, inclusive approach to public safety, and keep our promise to families across the country to address this issue at the federal level,” Omar said in a joint statement with Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Making any progress on police reform has been a struggle for Congress as Senate Republicans have repeatedly prevented any relevant legislation from advancing.
Exactly one year ago from Thursday, the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act — a comprehensive piece of legislation that did not include any additional funding for law enforcement — failed to advance in the Senate following a year of anti-police protests and months after President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats vowed it would pass on the first anniversary of Floyd’s police murder.
On the second anniversary this past May, Biden signed an executive order that he said was intended “to build and sustain fairness and accountability throughout the criminal justice system.” Like the Democrats’ new package of bills, the executive order included provisions to fund law enforcement.
Civil rights groups responded by calling it a good “first step” but ultimately requires a broader legislative effort to institute protocols that include true accountability.
The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) said Biden’s executive order is not an adequate substitute for the campaign promises the group said the president has not delivered to Black America.
“President Biden’s executive order is a poor excuse for the transformation of public safety that he promised the Black voters who put him in office,” M4BL said in a statement before adding: “After spending the last few months denouncing our movement’s calls to reimagine policing and public safety, the president’s order is nothing but a reflection of his allegiance to law enforcement.”
In July, the president delivered a speech in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and doubled down on his rhetoric about investing in the police.
“Want to feel a sense of security? That’s what my crime plan is all about. You know, I call it the Safer Americans Plan. And both your members of Congress voted for it. It’s based on a simple notion. When it comes to public safety to this stage, the answer is not defund the police. It’s fund the police,” Biden said at the time.
To be sure, the Safer Americans Plan specifically calls for funding the police and promoting effective prosecution of crimes affecting families in order to invest in crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice system.
Polling shows half of Americans want “major changes” to policing while nearly 40% of Americans support “minor changes.”
Those numbers change sharply when drawn along racial lines.
“Black Americans (72%) remain more likely than White (44%) and Hispanic adults (54%) to say major changes are needed,” the Gallup poll released in late May found. “About nine in 10 or more in each group say at least minor reforms are needed.”
That’s precisely why the Black-led groups are so adamant about asking the CBC to oppose the bills.
“Our organizations strongly support a legislative agenda that centers holistic, life-affirming policy solutions able to deliver what Black communities crave—actual safety and dignity for themselves, for their families, for their communities, and for all other communities to whom genuine safety has too long been denied,” the letter concluded. “These policing bills are not this legislative agenda. We ask that Congress drop these police funding bills and instead begin an inclusive process to develop bills that will actually serve Black communities’ safety goals.”