DES MOINES, Iowa – The U.S. House of Representatives voted 220 to 212 on Tuesday to pass H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Iowa U.S. House delegation split their votes by party with Republican U.S. Reps. Randy Feenstra, Ashley Hinson, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks voting against the legislation, and Democrat U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne voting in favor of the bill.
H.R. 1280 includes provisions that:
- Prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling
- Ban chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level, as well as condition law enforcement funding for state and local governments on banning chokeholds
- Create a nationwide police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers from moving to another jurisdiction without accountability
- Mandate state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, and age
- Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to improve public safety
- ·Limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement
- Require state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras, and require federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras
- Create law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations, as well as law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices
The legislation also requires law enforcement to collect data on all investigatory activities, mandates training on racial and other discriminatory profiling, and makes changes to ensure officers can be held accountable in court by amending criminal statutes and qualified immunity protections for law enforcement.
Axne said her vote was part of her commitment to addressing systemic racism and bias.
“Last year, countless Iowans and Americans across our nation raised their voices and sought long overdue and substantive changes to the systems that failed so many, including Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, and George Floyd – for whom this legislation is named,” she said in a released statement.
“It is long past time that we ensure our systems of justice and law enforcement protect everyone, regardless of the color of their skin. In Iowa, we saw bipartisan cooperation to continue the work of bending the arc of our nation towards justice – but there is more work to be done. By helping pass the Justice in Policing Act again this year, I’m reaffirming my commitment to tackling racism and bias in our institutions and taking direct steps to save lives and hold our police officers accountable,” Axne added.
Miller-Meeks said police reform is needed but had concerns with the bill.
“We need serious bipartisan police reform that hold bad officers accountable and holds good officers do their jobs. The Justice in Policing Act would eliminate qualified immunity, which would make recruitment and retention difficult and increase retirements, decrease the number of officers on patrol, and cost taxpayer dollars as municipalities litigate frivolous lawsuits. In effect, this is a backdoor way to defund the police,” she said in a released statement.
Miller-Meeks said everyone she spoke to agrees that police reform must happen, pointing to a police reform she voted for that passed in Iowa last summer that banned chokeholds, increased implicit bias training, and prevented bad law enforcement officers from being rotated to different departments.
She has co-sponsored the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act sponsored by U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., that Miller-Meeks says improves law enforcement transparency, bans chokeholds, makes lynching a federal crime, increases the use and number of body cameras, increases implicit bias training, ensures bad officers are held accountable, and improves officer performance.
“We must take real steps towards meaningful police reform and partisan politics will not solve anything. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to enact real change,” Miller-Meeks said.
The Iowa Torch asked Miller-Meeks if she would consider reforms to qualified immunity.
“The Congresswoman is open to a conversation regarding qualified immunity but would require input from the legal community, advocacy groups, and law enforcement engagement,” William Kiley, Miller-Meeks’ spokesperson, told The Iowa Torch.
Hinson said the bill defunded the police.
“Law enforcement officers in Iowa and across this country put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. It’s reprehensible that House Democrats would bring forward legislation to defund police departments while relying on law enforcement to protect our Capitol from imminent threats—in a Chamber safeguarded by Capitol Police,” she said in a released statement. “We can and should meaningfully address police misconduct and brutality without undermining—or defunding—the police. I will always stand with our brave law enforcement officers who risk it all to protect us and will work to ensure they have the resources they need to so.”
Hinson said the legislation would defund law enforcement by withholding federal resources limiting equipment, and imposing unfunded mandates that her office told The Iowa Torch would cost law enforcement agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Feenstra’s office echoed Hinson’s concerns.
“Congressman Feenstra does not support defunding the police, and that’s what this bill would do through hundreds of millions in unfunded mandates. In the Iowa Senate, he worked towards and supported a bipartisan solution — but once again, Democrats showed no interest in reaching across the aisle. He strongly supports the men and women in blue who work to keep our communities safe, but sadly, this bill does not support them and that’s why he voted no,” Aaron Britt, Feenstra’s spokesperson, said.