The death of George Floyd and the anger we all have surrounding his death had the power to break our country, but it didn’t. In fact, the death of George Floyd has united the American people behind a desire to finally achieve the perpetual goal of this experiment we call America—to make a more perfect union.
I have long held the belief: More unites us as a country than divides us. After marching in Houston alongside George Floyd’s family and sixty thousand other people, that belief is even stronger. Now is the time for all leaders to embrace these united calls to address the systemic issues that led to George Floyd’s death. We must put real solutions on the table that will make our communities safer.
The way we solve and address these issues is not by defunding the police but by ensuring federal dollars go to law enforcement in the most effective way possible.
Most police officers are working on behalf of American families. They are trying to keep us safe and protect us—including protecting our ability to protest and exercise our right to free speech. Rather than defund the police—punishing officers and departments who are working to keep us safe—we must look at ways to empower these departments and hold bad officers accountable.
Congress should pass legislation that will:
- Tie federal police funding to using best practices;
- Empower police chiefs to permanently fire bad officers; and
- Ensure Americans can hold law enforcement accountable in the courts for unlawful behavior.
Each year, the Department of Justice provides almost $2 billion in assistance to state and local law enforcement, which is conditioned on compliance with federal civil rights laws. However, mere compliance with the letter of the law is not enough to solve the problem of unarmed Black men and women dying in police custody. Federal dollars should be used to incentivize departments to follow best practices when it comes to training their officers.
While the majority of police officers are good, for the bad apples, police chiefs must be able to fire them permanently. Currently, due to arbitration, a large number of fired officers return to the force. A Washington Post study of major cities found that 451 police officers (out of 1,881) who were fired from the force were reinstated. That must change. A bad officer should be permanently barred from returning.
American citizens and their families should also be able to pursue legal charges against bad cops for actions that violate civil rights. A legal doctrine currently prevents this from happening, and Congress should alter that doctrine through legislation.
Now is the time for action. Our actions won’t bring back George Floyd or other lives that were tragically cut short, but they will provide our country with the tools to prevent another injustice. Whether your skin is black, or your uniform is blue, individuals should not feel targeted in this country.
Rep. Will Hurd represents Texas’s 23rd congressional district in the U.S. Congress.