Menendez Slams GOP for Ignoring Pleas from the American People for Real Policing Reform

Menendez Slams GOP for Ignoring Pleas from the American People for Real Policing Reform

‘Republicans and the President don’t want real reform. They want window dressing and fresh paint instead of fixing the very foundation on which our policing system stands.’ ‘And then they want to blame Democrats for holding out for real justice and refusing to play these political games with people’s lives.’

 

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) spoke today on the Senate Floor, urging Congress to pass meaningful, comprehensive policing reform legislation that answers the American people’s demand for action in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police. 

The senator blasted the GOP’s so-called “JUSTICE Act” for falling woefully short in addressing systemic racism and injustice.  Sen. Menendez is a co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, led by Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

Below are the Senator’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“M. President, I rise today to address the nationwide call for reasonable, sensible police reforms.

Last month the American people watched in horror as a police officer kneeled down on the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him.

“‘I can’t breathe……’ It was a slow execution caught on video. A metaphor for the systemic racism and injustices black and brown communities endure every day.

“But unlike other horrific videos of police killings that have sparked protests, this feels different. This is a moment when people of all races and walks of life have taken to the streets in cities and communities across the country. 

“They are crying out: Enough is enough!  It is time for us to address the institutional racism, economic, societal and environmental inequities and injustice that have plagued this nation since its founding.

“M. President, the American people are demanding real, meaningful change.  Bold, comprehensive action that starts by reforming our policing system that has historically dealt a heavier hand towards communities of color. 

“And what did the Republican Majority do to answer the public’s plea? They have offered the American people the JUSTICE Act. 

“They call it Justice.  But justice for whom?

“This bill fails to meet the moment before us.  It offers only lip service to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and all those tragically lost at the hands of the police.

“The Republican JUSTICE Act is nothing more than a glorified suggestion box filled with half-measures and placations that sound good on paper, but simply won’t deliver the real change the American people are demanding from this body. 

“There is no Justice in the JUSTICE Act.

“Rather, it is a wholly inadequate response to the injustices faced by black and brown communities at the hands of the police. It merely asks … suggests … recommends … encourages …

“It says to law enforcement:  ‘Hey, would you mind?  Could you, kindly?  Do you think you might be able?’  Nowhere in this bill does it compel, require, mandate or insist upon the common-sense structural reforms the American people are demanding.

“The JUSTICE Act calls for reports and a commission. But we’ve had 400 years to study the stain of slavery and institutional racism on this country. 

“We don’t need a study to tell us that too many young black men are dying at the hands off the police, or that you’re more likely to be shot and killed by the police if you’re black than white. 

“A commission won’t save the life of the next George Floyd.

“My Republican colleagues may think that the American people will praise them for passing an empty bill named Justice – that does NO justice to the deep-seeded, systemic, failures in our policing systems.  They are mistaken.

“Instead, I would encourage my Republican colleagues to consider the Justice in Policing Act – led by Senators Booker and Harris that I am proud to cosponsor.

“It requires a comprehensive set of reforms designed to increase police accountability, improve transparency, and invest in training. The Justice in Policing Act bans no-knock warrants in drug cases—the kind that led to Breonna Taylor’s death. 

“It establishes a national, public registry on police misconduct so that bad actors who make it harder for the good cops to do their jobs can’t just move from department to department.  Our bill requires data collection and publication on use of force. 

“The Republican bill does none of those things. And while the Justice in Policing Act bans deadly chokeholds and other tactics that restrict blood flow to the brain, the Republican bill stops short of any such ban. 

“The JUSTICE Act is also silent on racial profiling and the militarization of local police departments. It is silent on funding independent, investigative channels to prosecute police misconduct, and fails to strengthen pattern and practice investigations.

“It fails to establish national standards for police misconduct. And while it would provide additional money to law enforcement, it does so without actually requiring any substantive change.  So, it fails us.

“The JUSTICE Act fails to create a system of policing that is about community, safety, and equal application of the law.

“So again, I ask my friends on the other side of the aisle:  Where is the actual justice?

“Where is the justice for Breonna Taylor?  George Floyd?  Where is the justice for those whose murders were NOT captured on video?  Where is the justice for thousands of black men sitting in prison, victims of over-policing and racial profiling?

“Senator McConnell would have us think that the JUSTICE Act is our only option.  That if we don’t acquiesce to these half-measures then we don’t really want reform.  That is simply not true.

“The Republicans and the President don’t want real reform.  They want window dressing and fresh paint instead of fixing the very foundation on which our policing system stands.

“They want to say they did something without actually doing anything meaningful.  And then they want to blame Democrats for holding out for real justice and refusing to play these political games with people’s lives.

“The House is going to pass the Justice in Policing Act on Thursday. I would urge Senator McConnell to take up that bill so that we can have the meaningful conversation on police reform our constituents are demanding.

“We know that reform can work.  Camden, New Jersey offers us concrete evidence of what we can accomplish when we get serious about making real changes.

“Before I close, M. President, let me make it perfectly clear the profound respect that I have for the men and women in law enforcement. 

“Policing is a very tough job.  And the vast, vast majority of officers go out and perform their jobs everyday with dignity and professionalism and care for the people and the communities in which they serve. 

“I am deeply grateful for their service throughout the State of New Jersey and, indeed, throughout the nation.  These officers share our demands for real change.  In fact, in Camden itself, the chief of police joined with hundreds of protestors who were marching for change.

“And across the country, tens of thousands of Americans did not brave a pandemic and endure being shot at with rubber bullets and tear gassed just so Congress could create another commission and mandate another report.

“They demanded that their elected officials in Washington meet this moment in history and actually do something that lives up to the American promise of a nation where every man and woman—regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation—is treated equally under the law.

“The nation will rue the day it answered the call for reform with business as usual.  Who among us, if this was our experience, would be satisfied with the counsel of patience and delay?

“M. President, the American people are calling for real justice, and we should listen and we should act.”

 

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