Brief # 4 Social Justice

Policing in America Series: An ongoing  series that covers efforts to reform policing in America, written by USRESIST NEWS Reporter Laura Plummer.

Progress in Policing in 2020

January 19, 2021


Two-thousand and twenty was a year defined by unprecedented hardship. A deadly global pandemic ravaged the country and crippled whole sectors of the economy. A contentious presidential election divided the nation, and killings of black and brown people by police officers sparked yearlong protests against police brutality.

The Black Lives Matter movement gained popular support last year as it exposed the systemic racism inherent in American policing. More than any previous year, communities started organizing to demand comprehensive police reform and to hold their leaders and elected officials accountable. The following list explores the progress achieved in policing in 2020 at the federal and state levels.

Federal Level:
House and Senate Democrats unveiled the Justice in Policing Act to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, improve reporting on police misconduct and make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct.

Senate Republicans introduced a bill to improve reporting in police departments, apply harsher penalties for falsified documents, provide funding for de-escalation training, and establish a commission for criminal justice reform.

U.S. representatives introduced a bill in the House to end qualified immunity.

House Democrats introduced the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act to implement national policing standards, require agencies to report data to the DOJ, and increase oversight.

Pres. Trump signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, providing financial resources to departments that meet certain standards set by the attorney general.

State Level:
The Arkansas governor signed an executive order to establish a police task force to review its community policing policies.

California’s governor called for the banning of chokeholds. The California attorney general recommended key reforms.

Colorado passed a bill to ban chokeholds and tear gas, remove qualified immunity, require body cameras, prevent fired officers from being rehired, and hold officers accountable for not intervening.

The Connecticut governor required state police to stop using chokeholds and receiving military gear and to start using body cameras at all times. He signed a bill to increase oversight, review use-of-force policies, ban consent searches, investigate police shootings and weaken qualified immunity.

The Iowa governor signed a bill to ban chokeholds, prevent fired officers from being rehired, require anti-bias and de-escalation training, and weaken qualified immunity.

Massachusetts proposed several bills regarding use of force, hiring standards, and criminal justice reform.

The Michigan State Senate passed a bill to require mental health screenings for prospective officers and training in implicit bias and de-escalation for current officers.

The Minnesota State Legislature banned chokeholds and antiquated training programs, introduced trained peace officers, and improved investigations into fatal police encounters.

The New Hampshire governor issued an order on police reforms, including the use of body cameras by all state police.

New Jersey banned chokeholds and similar restraints.

The New York governor signed bills related to police misconduct, chokeholds, racial profiling, body cameras and reporting requirements. He also made departments come up with plans for reform in order to qualify for state funding.

Pennsylvania’s governor approved sweeping changes to policing, including background checks and mental health evaluations, a termination database, and training on use of force and de-escalation.The Rhode Island State Police agreed to obtain and use body cameras.

Tennessee House Democrats introduced a series of police reforms regarding use of force.


At the federal level, most legislation introduced in the House in 2020 was not taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. Only 14 states proposed significant changes to police policy last year and some of it was dead on arrival. In some cases, legislation is still pending. Readers can continue to put pressure on their governors and lawmakers to overhaul this historically racist institution. 


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