Hastings, Wasserman Schultz Introduce Community-Police Relations Bill

Washington D.C. –U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings (FL-20) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), filed legislation today to bridge the gap between police and the communities they serve by helping establish and fund local entities that create organized lines of communication, accountability and understanding between those who deserve equal protection under the law, and those who are pledged to provide it.
The Police Accountability and Community Engagement (PACE) Act is being introduced by two of Florida’s long-time advocates for police reforms. Hastings and Wasserman Schultz established the Task Force on Law Enforcement and Community Relations in 2014 to bring law enforcement, civic leaders, students and educational leaders across South Florida together. It served a constructive role for dialogue and reform locally between police, young people and thecommunity amid several high-profile national incidents where police conduct was called into question. The murder of George Floyd and the resulting widespread, rightful demands for police reforms requires a lasting conversations between community members and police. This legislation would authorize grants to 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.
“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. 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,” said Hastings. “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.”
“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.”

Grants would also be available to bring together law enforcement and young people between ages 13 and 18. The structure of the Police-Youth dialogue programs would be informed by the Police-Youth Dialogues Toolkit published in 2015 by the Center for Court Innovation and the DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office.