After George Floyd's Death, Nearly 400 Organizations Send Letter to Congress Demanding Immediate Police Reform

Nearly 400 organizations across the United States, ranging from the National Bar Association to the National Association of Realtors, co-signed a letter to Congress demanding immediate police reform legislation in the wake of George Floyd's death.

The letter, sent to Congress Monday by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, bluntly condemned abusive police practices and "state-sanctioned violence" against black Americans across the country. A diverse coalition of 386 organizations joined the group in urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to enact federal statutory reforms on a series of policing issues.

The civil rights group said use of force, police accountability, racial profiling, militarization, data collection and training are all urgently in need of sweeping changes.

"Now is the time for Congress to pass meaningful police reform legislation," the Washington-based human rights group wrote in a statement on Monday. "While we appreciate hearings and resolutions, we need comprehensive measures enacted. We need Congress to advance meaningful legislation to protect Black communities from the systemic perils of over policing, police brutality, misconduct, and harassment, and end the impunity with which officers operate in taking the lives of Black people."

One of the reforms demanded in the letter to Congress is a prohibition on all maneuvers that restrict blood flow or oxygen to the brain, including neck holds, chokeholds and similar acts of excessive force. On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a nationwide ban on chokeholds among all law enforcement agencies. In July 2014, an unarmed black man named Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold. As a Staten Island officer slowly choked off his oxygen supply, he said, "I can't breathe."

The organization reiterated that this week's protests following Floyd's May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers are not new. The letter highlighted the "long cycle of lawlessness" against black people, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 murder, the 1992 Los Angeles police abuse of Rodney King and the Ferguson, Missouri demonstrations after the police shooting of another unarmed black man, Michael Brown.

"Police have shot and killed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. over the past year," the letter continued. "For too long, the cycle of police brutality and racism has been met with cosmetic tinkering instead of substantive structural change."

The letter was undersigned by 386 organizations including Amnesty International, the National Action Network, the Asian American Advocacy Fund, the Center for Disability Rights, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and MomsRising.

President and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Vanity Gupta, penned an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Tuesday morning. She said the Justice Department's criminal investigation in the killing of Floyd is "a first step," but that the Trump administration's record shows it's likely the last.

"The Trump administration long ago ceded any moral authority and openly stirs racial hostility and division. Under attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William P. Barr, the department has effectively abandoned the use of pattern and practice investigations," Gupta wrote.

The letter to Congress went on to list several immediate legislative reforms following the country's latest incident of excessive force in Minnesota last week. The list included the elimination of federal programs which provide military equipment to law enforcement, creation of a national public database detailing police training standards and a compilation of officers who have had their licenses revoked due to previous misconduct.

Newsweek reached out to several top members of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights for additional remarks. This story will be updated with any response.

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A police officer (L) holds down a protester while another (back) sprays pepper spray as they clash outside the District Four Police station during a Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality and racism in the US, including the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 29, 2020. JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP/Getty Images