The tragic death of George Floyd has led to a renewed national focus on law enforcement reform, particularly to address behavior that endangers African-American citizens.  As Congress considers the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a group of more than 60 former federal law enforcement officials, including Womble Bond Dickinson attorney Ripley Rand, is speaking out in support of this reform measure.

The group published an open letter in the June 16 edition of USA Today. Rand, who served as the US Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina from 2011-17, and other Obama-era US Attorneys are signatories to the letter. They wrote that the Justice in Policing Act builds on justice-focused police reforms that stem from the Obama Administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The Justice in Policing Act includes such measures as data collection, training in implicit bias and de-escalation, and establishing a legal duty for officers to intervene when their colleagues are violating the rights of suspects. 

The bill changes the standard for criminal excessive force prosecutions from “willful” to “knowing,” thereby improving police accountability. It also would require departments to prohibit the use of dangerous tactics, such as chokeholds, in order to receive federal funding. 

“We urge Republicans and Democrats in Congress to pass this reform and we urge the administration to enforce it, along with the laws currently on the books, before we lose more lives and more trust,” the authors write. “It is long past time to heed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to all of us as Americans to feel ‘the fierce urgency of now.’”

Also, click here to read Womble Bond Dickinson’s statement – We Stand Together.