June 08, 2020

Duckworth Bill to Strengthen Police Accountability through Independent Investigation and Prosecution of Criminal Law Enforcement Lethal Uses of Force Included in Democratic Police Reform Proposal


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Provisions of U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth’s (D-IL) legislation, the Police Training and Independent Review Act, to strengthen accountability and transparency over law enforcement use of lethal force by rewarding states that enact laws requiring independent reviews, criminal investigations and when necessary, prosecutions of police officers who commit violent crimes, were included in the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

“We cannot let ourselves accept that in the United States of America, in the year 2020, black men and women are still being publicly executed without judge or jury in tragic and preventable police-involved deaths,” said Senator Duckworth. “Families like George Floyd’s, Breonna Taylor’s and Laquan McDonald’s that have experienced heartbreak are no less deserving of justice than any other family, but too often they don’t get it. I’m proud that provisions of my legislation to promote objective and independent investigations into police-involved use of deadly force were included in today’s comprehensive police reform proposal introduced by Democratic Congressional leadership. It’s time our country acts to ensure accountability within our law enforcement agencies and provide justice to those who have lost loved ones.”

This legislation is supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Cosponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

Duckworth most recently re-introduced this legislation in June 2019. The bill builds off of legislation introduced last Congress by Duckworth and U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Lacy Clay (D-MO). Assigning cases of police-involved deaths to external and independent prosecutors is a key recommendation of Taskforce of 21st Century Policing, which President Barack Obama established after events in Ferguson, Missouri and other communities revealed a severe breakdown in trust between police and the communities they serve. The use of independent prosecutors eliminates the inherent conflict of interest that arises when local prosecutors are asked to investigate, and potentially prosecute, the same local police departments with whom they work so closely on a daily basis. The Task Force’s final report also recommended that law enforcement agencies should provide ongoing training on ethnic and racial diversity and topics that can build trust and legitimacy in diverse communities.