The US House of Representatives approved the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 Wednesday, a bill intended to institute police reform in a wide variety of categories. The 220 to 212 vote was almost entirely along partisan lines. A previous version of the bill passed the House last year but failed in the Senate.
Like the previous version, the 2021 bill alters the qualified immunity available to law enforcement officers. The Act would bar law enforcement officers from asserting a defense that, “the defendant was acting in good faith, or … believed, reasonably or otherwise, that his or her conduct was lawful at the time when the conduct was committed.”
It further limits officers from a defense that the rights violated by the defendant were not clearly laid out in law at the time of conduct or a defense that the officer had no reason to know about the laws in place.
In a subsection titled the “Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act,” the bill would classify chokeholds as civil rights violations. An amendment to the US Code would state that, “the application of any pressure to the throat or windpipe, use of maneuvers that restrict blood or oxygen flow to the brain, or carotid artery restraints which prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air is a punishment, pain, or penalty.”
The bill also includes a provision establishing federal law enforcement officers’ duty to intervene when another officer uses “excessive force against a civilian.” The wide-sweeping bill additionally has a section that bans federal no-knock warrants in drug cases.