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Duke Center for Science and Justice Tracking Police Reform Legislation By State

July 14, 2020

While people across the nation took to the streets to protest the brutal police killing of George Floyd, lawmakers responded by introducing a series of police reform policies.

To date, there have been at least 78 pieces of police reform-related legislation, including bills, resolutions and executive orders, introduced in 15 states and Washington, DC. The vast majority were brought about after Floyd’s death.

“Perhaps the largest protest movement in American history has led to calls for wholesale police reform, and at the Center for Science and Justice, we have begun tracking the new legislation introduced in response,” said Center Director Brandon Garrett. “We hope that more than just incremental, piecemeal reforms are adopted and we will be watching these developments closely.”

The more than 70 bills that have been introduced at the federal and state levels, have been on a host of topics, from use of force, to officer certification, to data collection, to the liability of officers, Garrett said. Very little of it has passed to date and far more comprehensive legislation is likely to come.

“Our Center has already made legislative recommendations and advised on such lawmaking,” he added. “We will be continuing to inform this process. We will also continue to track these laws and build this collection as a resource for the public, policymakers, lawmakers, and researchers.”

Emma Li, a rising second-year student at Duke Law School started her internship with the Center in late May and began working on the Policing Reform Project in mid-June. She will continue to track legislation across the country as it is introduced and passes or fails.

“Researching for policing reform legislation in this eventful and often heartbreaking summer is a particularly powerful experience,” she said of the work. “I hope that our work will be part of the collective effort changing the set custom in policing legislation. It also gives me new appreciation on lawyers’ roles in pushing for positive social changes. In a very short time, we’ve seen more than 50 pieces of legislation introduced all across the country and we expect to see more. It is an exciting time, and I hope the data that we’ve collected can be a resource to the future legislation.”

Most of the legislation Li has tracked is still in progress. Five were enacted: an executive order in Connecticut, a new statute in Maryland, and an executive order and two new statutes in New York. Two proposed bills were killed before enactment in Kansas.

Access the police reform legislation list by state here. Read about the categories of legislation below.

Policy Categories:

  • Use-of-force policies:
    1. Chokehold:
      • Chokehold, neck restraints, and like tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow are explicitly prohibited in every bill that discusses them.
    2. Kinetic energy/less-lethal projectiles:
      • When discussed, most bills limit but not prohibit the use of kinetic energy/less-lethal projectiles (e.g. rubber bullets); with one bill suggesting its total prohibition: 2019 GA S.B. 513.
      • One California bill permits its use only against “a specific target who presents a clear and imminent threat.”
      • Common restrictions on the use of kinetic energy/less-lethal projectiles include: (1) cannot use indiscriminately into a crowd or targeting certain body parts; (2) cannot use for the purpose to disperse a First Amendment assembly.
    3. Chemical weapon:
      • When discussed, most statutes limit but not prohibit the use of chemical agents or irritants; with one bill suggests its total prohibition: 2019 MA SD 2469.
      • One California bill suggests a ban on two types of specific chemical weapon: chloroacetophenone tear gas and chlorobenzalmalononitrile gas.
      • When restricted, they are usually put under the similar restrictions as kinetic energy projectiles.
    4. Warning:
      • Two bills mandate certain warning given before any use of force behaviors. One of them specifically requires that the police should make reasonable effort to identify themselves: 2019 NY A.B. 10651.
    5. Use of deadly force:
      • When discussed, all bills strictly limit police’s use of deadly force – only permitted in defense of human life, under imminent danger of deadly threat, and after the deescalation tactics have been employed.
  • Training: The three most commonly suggested topics for training programs are:
    1. Mental illness awareness training: under the assumption that mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities may affect the ability of a person to understand or comply with commands from peace officers; therefore situations are more likely to escalate when police officers lack the awareness for these disabilities.
    2. De-escalation/conflict resolution training: usually as part of the framework to minimize the use of force in police activities; focusing on communication or negotiation skills.
    3. Implicit bias and racial profiling and diversity/inclusiveness awareness training
      • Other topics discussed include:
        • Two Minnesota bills prohibit the “warrior-style training.”
        • One Congressional bill suggests training programs focusing on building police-community relations.
        • Two bills suggest training programs focusing on the enforcement of two specific types of crimes: hate crime and domestic violence.
  • Study & research:
    • Some (6) bills seek to establish task forces/committees/appointing personnel to focus on studying, researching, then recommending police reform plans.
  • Hiring/re-hiring/certification:
    • Psychological evaluation:
      • Two bills mandate the inclusion of psychological evaluation in police hiring/certification process
    • Screening:
      • Eight bills require police agencies to review any possible internal files of police misconduct and complaints as well as pending criminal charges before hiring/certifying.
      • Four bills prohibit the rehiring of any police officers whose previous employment was terminated due to police misconduct.
    • Racial awareness:
      • One bill requires the inclusion of racial awareness questions in police entrance exams.
    • Community connection (residency requirement):
      • Two state bills require that some cities within the state, only residents of that city can be eligible for police officers.
      • One Congressional bill recommends hiring of the police officer with the similar racial and ethnic demographic characteristics to the community in communities where a law enforcement agency has a substantial different racial and ethical makeup.
    • Alternative entrance to exam:
      • One Massachusetts bill seeks to establish the State Cadet Program as the alternative route to traditional entrance exam for police recruitment.
  • Demilitarization:
    • Some (4) bills seek to de-militarize state police force.
    • One Connecticut bill and one New York bill prohibits the purchase of military or military-style equipment from the federal government.
    • In two comprehensive police reforming bills from the District of Columbia, not only is the purchase of certain types of military-grade weapons prohibited; the already possessing ones are required to disgorge.
    • The DC bills also require publishing of any required and acquired property through federal programs.
    • One Congressional bill seeks to incentivize state-level demilitarization by prioritizing certain funds to state and local governments that did not receive or return the military grade equipment to the Department of Defense.
  • Funding:
    • One Illinois bill requires at least two public hearings prior to any municipal activity of defunding its police department.
  • Duty/right to intervene and report:
    • Many bills mandate that police officers present and observing another police officer using excessive force have a duty to intervene and/or report.
    • Many bills grant liability immunity to police officers who intervene against police misconduct.
    • One New York bill makes the failure to report unauthorized use of force a class B misdemeanor.
    • One Massachusetts bill grants all persons within the state the right to intervene in events of police misconduct.
  • Body-worn/dashboard camera:
    • New York, Connecticut, and Georgia currently have pending bills (6 in total) requiring the equipment of body-worn/dashboard cameras.
    • One Congressional bill requires the use of body cameras in all federal law enforcement agencies: 2019 FD H.B. 7120.
    • One Congressional bill encourages the use of body cameras across the country: 2019 FD S.B. 3965.
  • Accountability:
    1. Investigation/prosecution of police misconduct (excessive use of force):
      • Six bills create procedures for the investigation and prosecution in events of alleged excessive use of force.
    2. Investigation/prosecution of police-involved death:
      • Five bills create procedures for the investigation and prosecution in events of police-involved death.
    3. Civil/criminal liability:
      • Two state bills create new criminal or civil offenses for certain actions of police misconduct.
      • Two Georgia bills remove certain tort immunities previously afforded to police officers in events of police misconduct.
      • One Congressional bill seeks to amend relevant provisions in U.S.C. to have more severe punishments for law enforcement officers who willfully falsify a police report.
    4. Extend the statute of limitation for actions against police misconduct:
      • Four state bills extend the civil statute of limitations for certain actions by peace officers.
    5. Termination of employment:
      • One New York bill requires the termination in all excessive use of force cases, regardless of the actual harm done or if any complaints filed.
      • One Minnesota bill mandates the termination of all police officers who violate use of force policies.
    6. Supervision (civilian or institutional):
      • Six bills seek to either establish or expand the civil/institutional supervision board.
      • Two comprehensive police reform bills require that unabridged body camera recording be released (1) to a supervision board upon request; and (2) to the public in events of police-involved death or excessive use of force.
    7. Documentation, Database, and Reports:
      • 2019 FD H.B. 7100: requires federal and local law enforcement agencies to report data on law enforcement practices (e.g. traffic violation stops, frisk and body search, use of force incidents, etc.) to the Attorney General.
      • 2019 GA S.B. 513: requires the documentation of the race, ethnicity, and gender of drivers and passengers when police stops a motor vehicle.
      • The types of data that are commonly required to be documented/reported include: use of force incidents data, police complaints data, and police misconduct (e.g. excessive use of force, police-involved death) data.
      • One Congressional bill requires federal and local law enforcement agencies to report data on law enforcement practices (e.g. traffic violation stops, frisk and body search, use of force incidents, etc.) to the Attorney General.
      • One Georgia bill requires the documentation of the race, ethnicity, and gender of drivers and passengers when police stops a motor vehicle.
  • Miscellaneous:
    1. False police report:
      • One New Jersey bill grants private right of action against any person who unreasonably summons a police officer based on racial profiling or any other discriminatory assumptions.
    2. Disincentivizing excessive policing:
      • One New Jersey bill disincentivizes excessive policing by prohibiting the consideration of arrest numbers and issued citations in police performance evaluation.
      • One Congressional bill authorizes the Attorney General to distribute cash awards to eligible law enforcement officers who exemplify best practices or significant innovations to reduce the excessive use of force or improve community policing.
    3. Liability insurance:
      • One New York bill requires municipalities, authorities and agencies to obtain liability insurance on each duly appointed police officer in an amount not less than $200,000.
    4. Alternative policing:
      • Two DC bills encourage cities or counties to create alternative public safety emergency response programs to police.
    5. Right to record police conduct:
      • One New York bill provides that a person not under arrest or in the police custody has the right to record police activity and to maintain control of that recording.
    6. Community outreach:
      • One Connecticut bill directs the appointment of community trust liaisons.
    7. Limits on search warrant/consent search:
      • Two DC bills require that in events of consent search, police officers must explain in simple and plain language the purpose of the search and obtain knowing and voluntarily consent.
      • One Maryland bill establishes procedure for searching under warrant.
    8. Duty to identify:
      • Two DC bills require officers to ID themselves during first amendment assemblies.
  • Resolutions:
    • 2019 GA H.R. 1550: urges all governing authorities of this state to adopt solutions to address systemic racial inequalities in police use of force and in economic empowerment; and for other purposes.
    • 2019 KS H.C.R. 5002: condemning all acts of police brutality, racial profiling and the use of excessive and militarized force throughout the country.
    • 2019 MI H.R. 277: discourages defunding the police.