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Here’s The Criminal Justice Reform Legislation Congress Needs To Pass ASAP

Updated on June 2, 2020
Melissa Pitts profile image

Melissa Pitts is a business owner, activist, political and business writer.

David Mcatee, a Kentucky restaurant owner, was shot and killed by a police officer during a protest. Mr. Mcatee was murdered while protecting his niece that accompanied him to the protest. They were marching for the justice of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two shooting victims that were also killed by the hands of cops.

Even though these stories are horrible and unbearable to know, there have already been changes made as far as disciplinary actions against police officers that murder citizens. Thanks to the protest for George Floyd and Breonna, governors, mayors and police chiefs across the country are taking notice of the frustration that the public has had with police officers literally getting away with murder. Even though we are already seeing progress, it is only the beginning. Congress needs to step in and create some new laws pertaining to police officers and its departments.

Below are laws that should be created in order to progress with criminal justice reform.


1. Police officers should be required to wear their body cams at all times or face a misdemeanor charge.

In the case of the shooting of David Mcatee, the cops that fired at him did not have their body cams on. This is a sloppy and unacceptable thing to have happened and it should be made illegal. Specifically, it should be illegal for cops to turn off their body cams, avoid wearing them or tamper with the captured videos from the cams. If any officer is found doing any of this, then they should be fired, fined and charged with a misdemeanor. This will surely make cops think twice before deciding to be shady with their cams. This should be taken seriously, especially since the purpose of the cam is to further monitor police officers. It is also potential evidence in case a cop decides to abuse their power of authority.

2. All police officers that do not report abuse from other police officers will be penalized with a fine and a misdemeanor charge.

When George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a Minnesota cop, there were 3 other police officers that stood by watching. In other words, they were witnessing someone getting murdered without intervening. If any other citizen saw a murder and didn't stop it, they could be charged with accessory to murder. So why shouldn't this apply to these three cops?

These officers have yet to be arrested, but what if the video of the murder never existed? It would have been bystanders' witness testimonies against all four cops. Would these officers have covered up for Derek, as many cops do? I think that Congress should pass a law that states that all cops should report wrongdoing to their bosses and to Congress. Failure to do so should result in immediate termination and a fine.


3. All police officers should be required to pay for their own legal and settlement fees if the officer is ever indicted and charged with a crime.

If a cop is indicted for committing a crime and violating their oath of office to protect and defend the public, it is this same public that pays the officer’s legal bills. This also includes any settlements that may result from an indictment. This makes absolutely no sense, especially since it’s more likely that the crime the officer committed is typically against a citizen that they were in charge of protecting. Why should we pay cops for breaking a law that they swore to withhold and enforce?

No matter what type of crime a cop commits, taxpayers shouldn't be required to pay for someone else’s misjudgements and bad decisions. How many cops pay citizens’ legal bills when they wrongfully arrest or injure an innocent person? How many abusive cops pay their victims’ medical bills after beating up or shooting them?


4. Police departments and unions should be required to release any disciplinary and employee records of all police officers.

These days, many Americans do not trust law enforcement, especially their local police. The fact that police records are not publicly available only widens the gap of this mistrust. There are currently 18 cities in the U.S. that have union contracts that specifically states that departments are required to destroy police records after 5 years. This is unacceptable and there is no benefit of this to the general public.

It is obviously an advantageous tactic for police departments to shield anything that will make them look “bad” in the public’s eye. But it shouldn’t be up to police unions and departments whether or not they want to be transparent with the citizens they serve. It should obviously be a requirement. If not then why are we paying the cops and their departments anything? They should get compensated by the unions that protect them so much.


5.It should be illegal for police officers to review evidence against them in the case they get indicted for a crime.

Police officers are protected by privacy provisions in police union contracts and police departments are allowed to review evidence against them in the case they get indicted for abusing their authority. Police officers are allowed to look at videos, documents, files, audios, texts, voice mails and any other evidence that may be used against them in the court of law. Civilians do not have this luxury and police officers shouldn’t either. If an everyday citizen was found looking through evidence against them, they are punished and charged with obstruction of justice. So why shouldn’t it be the same for a public servant, such as a cop?


6. Congress should form a nationwide oversight team to review and monitor the records and performances of police officers.

If Congress sends money to police departments and the states then why shouldn’t they monitor how the police departments perform? It’s mind blowing to me that there has yet to be a Congress watchdog committee in place, especially since there have been so many public cases of police brutality resulting in death. You would think that that is a matter of urgency and the absence of watchdogs and oversights for cops will only ensure that more deaths in the hands of cops will happen.

7. The bail bond system should be outlawed.

One of the main causes of mass incarceration has been the bail bond system. To this day, there are over 200,000 people in prison that have yet to be convicted of a crime. These individuals are awaiting charges to be brought against them. The only reason why these inmates are detained is because they could not afford the bail it takes to get out of prison. This amount could be as little as $500.

The bail bond system has disproportionately kept poor people in jails across the country and if this system didn’t exist, our jails and prisons would be less crowded. Less inmates mean less people to manage, which is a good thing when it comes to prisons. Congress should pass a law to make it illegal for any state, federal and private prisons to use bail as part of any arrest and release of prisoners. This should include mental institutions and juvenile detention centers.


8. Prosecutors and district attorneys that are proven to have committed wrongdoing should be immediately disbarred, fined and jailed.

When it comes to criminal justice reform, attorneys play a major role in its fruition. This type of reform would be impossible if the justice system were full of shady and incompetent lawyers. There have been cases in which prosecutors have hidden evidence from trials in order for their client to win. And their clients were cops. Why should a lawyer that does something shady like this be allowed to continue to make a living practicing law? And why should a lawyer get away with obstructing justice when it is a crime?

If a lawyer is found obstructing justice in any way, they should be publicly exposed and the lawyer should be fined and charged with the felony of obstruction of justice. Period. Lawyers should never be immune to getting charged with a crime that everyone else would be charged with. Lawyers should be held at the highest standard when it comes to court officials, just as judges are. Attorneys know the laws so they should know better than to break them.


Conclusion

The whole world is watching us all. From the protests to videos of cops killing the citizens they vowed to protect, we are currently seen as a country with a messed up and flawed justice system. We used to be known as the greatest country in the world and one of the reasons why is because of our laws of the land. Even though the world may not think that of America anymore, we can get to a place where this country has a justice system that is fair to all and holds the flawed characters accountable for their inappropriate actions. It is up to all of us to work on this progress and reform together. The most powerful changes of our history started with protest and I have the feeling that the protest of George Floyd will be the start of the overdue reform of America’s legal system!







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