U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are introducing legislation aimed at funding local organizations that help foster improved relations between police and nearby communities.
The legislation is called the Police Accountability and Community Engagement (PACE) Act.
“The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor — in addition to the many others we have not forgotten, including Corey Jones, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice — have strengthened the nationwide calls for reform in the culture of policing,” Hastings said in a Thursday statement.
According to a Thursday release, the PACE Act would put money toward “nonprofits, institutions of higher education, community groups, and faith- based organizations, to facilitate organized dialogues that bring together community members and police officers for discussions designed to build trust, increase accountability and reduce tension in police/community relationships.”
Hastings and Wasserman Schultz helped set up a similar organization in South Florida in 2014. That group brought officers, residents and local leaders together to discuss the underlying tension surrounding policing.
Under the PACE Act, grants would also target youth outreach programs between police and individuals age 13 to 18.
“All communities deserve respectful, accountable police, and without an honest, open and ongoing dialogue between them, that can never happen,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“Rather than sidestep issues of race, these discussions must engage issues such as racial profiling and criminal justice system disparities. By providing the framework for these conversations, we can disrupt the cycle of disconnection and brutality that is now a fact of life for communities of color.”
Protests have been going on for weeks following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. That incident prompted President Donald Trump to sign an executive order incentivizing changes among police departments. Congress would need to act, however, to issue more concrete reforms.
Lawmakers are looking to craft such a bill, though the exact parameters remain unknown. It’s possible The Hastings-Wasserman Schultz proposal could be added to a larger legislative package.
“For communities of color and the black community who have experienced a painful and ongoing pattern of disproportionate harm during interactions with law enforcement, the need for improved police-community relations is an urgent, life-or-death matter,” Hastings added.
“This healing cannot take place without the beginning of open, very possibly challenging dialogues such as those supported in our bill, which brings officers and community members together to increase accountability, boost understanding, reduce tension, and build trust. Every day that goes by means lives are at stake, so we have a responsibility now to begin the difficult process of rebuilding the lost trust between police and all of the communities they are meant to serve.”