tv U.S. Senate Sen. Casey on Police Reform CSPAN June 25, 2020 9:14am-9:32am EDT
the american people something they can be proud of and finally, finally, something that the senate can be proud of. another senator seeking recognition so i suggestive the absence of a kwor rom. >> quorum. >> and mr. president, i look at the bill, this is a moral moment, how our nation will respond in the moral moment. the police officer, quote, shames us before the world, i'm quoting an naacp official who i said it well.
so did the murder of rayshard brooks, breonna taylor and so many names we may not have heard before and many we'll hear over and over again. a lot of us feel that shame. countless millions of americans feel that shame. they feel that sadness and they feel that anger all these weeks since that terrible moment that we all witnessed. and so many moments before and after that. and as they feel that shame and express anger and frustration and as they protest and proclaim as they march and mobilize, as they use their voice and cast their votes,
they demand change, but not simply just change in and of itself, a certain kind of change. the kind of change we see rarely in washington these days and frankly, rarely over the course of american history. but i think we might be in one of those moments now. they demand transformative change. they demand, and appropriately so, systemic change to a criminal justice system that is infused with racism. their righteous demand for change is in fact, a petition for justice. in the 1950's and 60's martin luther king said it well. among many things he said well about where we were then and unfortunately, where we are now. his words still ring true.
he said in justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. still true today in the context of this debate. but you can go back even further than what dr. king said. you can go back hundreds of yea years. st. augusta said it well about justice. he said without justice, what are kingdoms, but great bands of robbers. kingdoms as bands of robbers. there's been a lot of robbery over many, many years, even generations when it comes to black americans. for hundreds of years, black americans have been robbed of the equal protection of the law. the united states supreme court has emblazoned on the front
portico of that building just yards from here equal justice under law. so many black americans have been robbed of equal justice under law. they've been robbed of opportunity, the opportunity to advance in a country that would not hold the color of their skin against them. but they've been robbed of that. robbed of their dignity over and over again in ways grave and other ways to people never saw. all the indignitiendignities, t insults, not to mention worse than that. black americans have been robbed of the chance to truly pursue the american dream. and robbed of peace of mind, something that those of us who are white should think about a lot more, that i should think
about a lot more as a white male. the peace of mind that a parent has, a father or a mother should have the peace of mind in america that when their son or daughter, but often it's their son, when he leaves the house in the morning. will he be mistreated walking through a neighborhood by an official of our government, law enforcement or otherwise? will he be pulled over and have his rights violated because of the color of his skin? black americans have been robbed of that peace of mind in addition to so many other kind of robbery that's impacted their lives. so what do we do? do we simply march and protest and express outrage? all of that is important. all of that is vital, in fact, all of that is one of the
reasons we're even here talking about it on the senate floor. people in both parties talking about it. and in my home state of pennsylvania, there are very few counties, just a handful of counties that have not had one, two or many more protests in a state with 67 counties. so part of what we've got to do as legislators, as members of this legislative body called the united states senate is to in fact legislate. let me start with the bill that was introduced about two weeks ago, the justice and policing act. senate bill 3912. if i had to describe it in one bill or one word, i should say, describe the bill in one word, it would be accountability. and i think it's a big difference between that bill, the justice and policing act, and the bill offered by the majority. accountability is vital.
it's essential. we cannot move forward and say that we've done something substantial to bring about justice to advance the cause of justice unless there's accountability. the bill also has very strong transparency provisions, as well as a long menu of actions we can take to improve police practices in a meaningful way. let me start with accountability. and we talk about accountability, we're talking about constitutional violations, preventing those violations and holding those accountable that engage in constitutional violations. we could, for example, revise 18 united states code section 242. it's right now as a matter of law, a violation of law for any law enforcement officer to willfully deprive a person of any right protected by the constitution.
but it's almost impossible for prosecutors to prove willfulness and the department of justice doesn't prosecute many cases in a nation of 18,000 law enforcement agencies. this bill with revise the intent standard known by latin, to knowingly or with reckless disregard. so the change of that standard under law would make it more likely that successful prosecutions can be brought when constitutional rights are violated in a criminal manner. the second constitutional violation provision speaks to civil liability, reforming our civil liability laws often referred to by a particular doctrine, qualified immunity. cases where a citizen is a
victim of police misconduct. this is a constitutional violation when it happens. currently, a police officer who violates an american's constitutional rights are often protected by a liability shield that we know as qualified immunity. this doctrine has been questioned by many. at least two supreme court justices who don't usually agree on much have questioned it and members of the united states senate in both parties here have questioned this doctrine. basically, the doctrine holds that police cannot be liable unless the conduct violates, quote, clearly established, unquote, standards, or a standard set forth in prior cases. and most courts dismiss such cases, and qualified immunity,
to ensure that americans recover damages in a case where their constitutional rights are violated by the actions of law enforceme enforcement. so there's two provisions that speak to accountability. there's a third as well and i won't go through all of them. accountability also means strengthening pattern and practice investigations by granting subpoena power to the civil united states division of the department of justice. and also, providing grants, funding to state attorneys general to conduct these pattern and practice investigations at the state level. the focus here, again, is on constitutional violations that are systemic in a local jurisdiction or systemic in a state agency. what results from these kinds of investigations often are consent decrees. these consent decrees by courts
are, of course, supposed to be judicially enforced. these decrees can also-- or can often, i should say, ensure that a police department implements reforms. here is one of the problems. the trump administration has virtually abandoned this practice of bringing these pattern and practice investigations. the obama administration opened 25 such cases. but even under the obama administration, there was a constraint because of the lack of subpoena power. that should be changed. i'll just mention two more provisions, mr. president. it's a long list. i'll just mention two more. the justice and policing act banned choke holds and bans carotid holds. and number five, it bans no-knock warrants in federal
drug cases, federal drug cases. now, what about the bill offered by the republicans, the majority here in the senate? the republican bill does not, in my judgment, respond to this moral moment. it does not substantially advance the cause of justice because it's devoid of provisions that would impose accountability, real accountability on law enforcement, and especially on a particular law enforcement officer who is sworn to protect americans. he's not sworn to violate their constitutional rights. so when a law enforcement officer engages in that conduct, there must be accountability. the bill does not speak to that in a fashion that i think would bring about change. the bill also doesn't even explicitly ban choke holds and carotid holds.
meaning a hold that can cut off your airflow which we know can kill someone and also the carotid hold that can cut off your blood flow. both can be lethal. the bill doesn't ban them. that's the only reason potentially we're even here debating this because the american people, god only knows, tens of millions who watched a police officer choke the life out of a human being, george floyd. without that video i'm not sure we'd be here debating this bill or any bill, but the idea that that practice is not banned under this bill makes the bill woefully deficient and i think that's an understatement: the bill fails to ban no-knock warrants even in the context, frankly, a limited context of federal drug cases, it doesn't do that and that kind of a ban may have saved the life of
breonna taylor, for example. the republican bill doesn't prohibit racial profiling and it provides no change, no substantial change in the militarization of police forces. so, in the end, mr. president, we're here not just to debate and to focus on bills and policy and language, but we're here to talk about justice. there's a great hymn i've heard in church over many years rooted in the scriptures and one of the refrains or one of the parts of the refrain of that hymn is we are called, we are called to act with justice. those are the exact words of that hymn. the first couple lines of the hymn are, come live in the light and then it says, it goes on to say we're called to act with justice. if we're going to act with justice here by way of legislation, we should listen
not just to the scriptures or to dr. king or to st. augusta. we should also listen to a more recent dr. king. he just happens to be the former education secretary, dr. john b king. just testified a couple of weeks ago on our health education labor pensions committee, the committee that senator alexander was talking about. former secretary of education king said the following regarding students returning to school this year, and i think it bears directly not just on these justice issues, but also on the broader agenda that we should push forward to advance the interest of black americans and communities of color. dr. king in this testimony just recently, dr. john king said the following, when our students return to school buildings, they will need
additional support as they grapple with the continued reality of racism in america and the legacy of over 400 years of anti-blackness. the murders of george floyd and then he lists some others, those murders have once again sent the message to black students that their lives are devalued. he goes on in his testimony to talk about the moment we're in. the moment i've called a moral moment as have others. dr. john king said, we face a moment where our nation's students of color and their families also find themselves enduring a pandemic which disproportionally impacts their health, mired in an economic crisis that disproportionally affects their financial well-being, and living in a country that too often still
struggles to recognize their humanity, unquote. so said john king. >> please take conversations off of the senate floor. >> mr. president, i'm almost done. i thank you for that. mr. president, as dr. martin luther king and dr. john king, former secretary of education and others have told us, we have to make sure that this is a moment we can act with justice as the hymn tells us. all of us, no matter where we're from, no matter what party we're in. all of us are called to act with justice. so let us not fail to act with justice in this moral moment. let us embrace this moment, pass the justice and policing act or something very close to that, and bring the warm light of justice to millions