What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?

The legislation would have addressed use of force, racial profiling and more.

February 2, 2023, 1:49 PM

The funeral for Tyre Nichols was filled with tributes for the 29-year-old who died after a violent encounter with police, and a call to action for reform.

Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells, who addressed the mourners gathered in Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church through tears, said she needed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act bill to be passed.

“We need to take some action because there should be no other child that should suffer the way my son [did] and all the other parents here who’ve lost their children,” Wells said. “We need to get that bill passed because if we don’t, that blood -- the next child that dies -- that blood is going to be on their hands.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump all pushed for lawmakers to revive talks on the legislation, which was crafted in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis police.

"We demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," Harris said at the funeral. "Joe Biden will sign it. We should not delay, and we shall not be denied. It is nonnegotiable."

Demonstrators participate in a protest near the White House against the police killing of Tyre Nichols on Jan. 27, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The bill, which would’ve sought to address racial profiling and use of deadly force, was passed by the Democrat-controlled House in 2021 but stalled in the Senate over the issue of qualified immunity for officers.

Here’s what was included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act:

Accountability for police misconduct

The bill would have lowered the legal standard for prosecuting officers from willfulness to recklessness, and would've limited qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against an officer.

It also mandated the creation of a National Police Misconduct Registry to collect data on complaints and records of police misconduct. The registry would've been designed to keep track of termination records, lawsuits against officers, discipline records and more at the federal, state and local level.

The Department of Justice would've also been granted administrative subpoena power in pattern-or-practice investigations -- reviews the agency says are a central tool to accomplish police reform and restoring police-community trust.

Framework for addressing racial profiling

The bill would have banned racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels. It would also have required officers to complete training on racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.

In this May 31, 2020, file photo, the makeshift memorial and mural is shown outside Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in Minneapolis.
Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

It would also have required procedures for investigating and "responding meaningfully" to complaints alleging racial profiling.

Limit use of force

The bill would also have banned no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. The use of no-knock warrants in such cases was highly scrutinized after police killed Breonna Taylor when entering her Louisville home on a no-knock warrant in March 2020.

It would also have incentivized local and state agencies to ban chokeholds by tying the prohibitions to federal funding.

Federal officers would also have been required to wear and activate body cameras except in narrow circumstances when stopping to activate it would endanger their life.

The bill would have prohibited federal officers from using deadly force unless all “reasonable alternatives to the use of the form of less lethal force have been exhausted” -- including verbal warnings, de-escalation tactics and nonlethal force. The attorney general would also be mandated to establish a clear duty for federal officers to intervene in cases where another law enforcement officer is using excessive force against a civilian.