Clay-Khanna Announce Legislation to Alter Use of Force for Federal Law Enforcement

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Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO) has teamed up with Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) to introduce legislation that would create a single federal standard for use of force. Clay and Khanna held a press conference Friday to introduce the measure aimed at combating misuse of force by law enforcement.

The Police Exercising Absolute Care with Everyone Act of 2019, or PEACE Act, would require officers not use force unless “such force is necessary, as a last resort, to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death to the officer or another person; the use of such forces creates no substantial risk of injury to a third person; and reasonable alternatives to the use of such force have been exhausted.”

It would require officers to use a verbal warning before using force and use the least amount of force when interacting with pregnant women; individuals under the age of 21; elderly persons; persons with mental, behavioral, or physical disabilities or impairments; persons experiencing perceptual or cognitive impairments due to use of alcohol, narcotics, hallucinogenic, or other drugs; persons suffering from a serious medical condition; and persons with limited English proficiency.

While the legislation has been endorsed by several civil rights organizations, law enforcement organizations have been more hesitant to approve of the legislation.

Nathan Catura, President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said in a statement, “Situations escalate in seconds and law enforcement are often called to the scene of already volatile situations. Under this legislation, law enforcement must take the time to conclude the age, language, physical and mental condition of an active threat before even issuing conditional warnings to the individual.”

Catura also noted judicial precedent and internal policies within federal agencies dictating use of force guidelines.

The PEACE Act would also encourage states to adopt a similar standard for use of force.

“The PEACE Act would also incentivize states to adopt their own legislation to establish this same higher standard of conduct for local police if they wish to continue receiving public safety funding from the US Department of Justice Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. If states fail to enact legislation that mirrors our new federal standard requiring law enforcement to use force as an absolute last resort…they would no longer be eligible to receive that funding,” said Rep. Clay.

Lawmakers announced the legislation on the five-year anniversary of Michael Brown's death, which sparked protests in Ferguson, Missouri regarding proper use of force by law enforcement.

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