House Democrats plan to introduce a new bill to defund police departments, establish reparations for Blacks and victims of police brutality, abolish federal law enforcement agencies, and more.
Democrat Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley unveiled the BREATHE Act, which has not yet been introduced in the House, calling it “a new vision for public safety.” The bill was created by the Movement for Black Lives, a self-proclaimed abolitionist, anti-capitalist group, who also participated in its unveiling.
“We can start to envision through this bill a new version for public safety — a new vision for public safety, one that protects and affirms black lives,” Tlaib said.
The bill would end federal programs that provide funds and resources to police departments, such as the Department of Defense 1033 program that provides military surplus equipment to police, and the Edward Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant Program. Federal grants would be prioritized for jurisdictions who plan to defund their police departments.
Gina Clayton Johnson, one of the bill’s creators, said, “We crafted this bill to be big because we know the solution has to be as big as the 400-year-old problem itself.”
The bill proposes a reparations program named for Michael Brown, who died during his arrest in 2014. The program would establish reparations for those deemed survivors of police violence, and families of those who die in police custody. It also establishes a commission that would study reparations proposals.
Beyond defunding, reparations, and abolishing law enforcement agencies, the bill’s demands go even further, aiming to reduce the U.S. military budget, and ending the use of ankle monitors and other electronic monitoring.
The bill also demands drug decriminalization and the repeal of all drug convictions and juvenile offenses on the state level. It demands an end to life sentences, minimum sentencing laws, the “three strikes” law,
Federal funds granted to states would not be allowed to fund carceral methods, and instead would only be allowed to fund interventions such as neighborhood mediation, non-law enforcement 911 responses, employment opportunities for former criminals, “transformative justice and healing justice programs,” and more.
It’s unclear whether or not the bill will gain widespread Democrat support, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently said it was up to local jurisdictions to defund police departments. Further, President Trump is unlikely to sign such a bill, as he has publicly criticized attempts to defund police departments.