Pocan introduces uniform national standards for police

    Protesters confronting riot-clad officers on the first day. Officers were blocking side streets. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
    Protesters confronting riot-clad officers on the first day. Officers were blocking side streets. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

    Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth) announced on Friday that he is introducing a bill called the Police Training and Accountability Act, to establish national training standards for all law-enforcement officers, as well as a civilian-law enforcement bill of rights. Under the proposed legislation, a civilian commission would set standards of training for police, which, Pocan pointed out, lack uniformity across the country.

    Congressman Mark Pocan
    U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan

    “There’s a common standard across the country to be a truck driver, but we don’t have that when it comes to being a police officer,” Pocan said in a call with reporters on Wednesday.  “I think anywhere you are in the country, you should expect the same treatment and rules applying to police officers and we don’t have anything close to that right now in this country.”

    Pocan drafted the bill in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the protests around the nation that followed, some of which involved further repressive tactics by police.

    “Federal dollars should not go to police that communities simply do not trust,” Pocan said in a statement. “From de-escalation to use of lethal force, police nationwide must meet new standards before they receive additional funding from the federal government.”

    The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG), is the largest source of federal funds for state and local law enforcement agencies, with $547.2 million appropriated for the program in FY2020, according to Pocan’s office.

    The standards and training requirements to be created by a civilian commission under Pocan’s bill would include

    • a minimum level of education attainment and training hours
    • standards for use of force and use of lethal force
    • implicit bias
    • conflict resolution
    • mediation and de-escalation practices
    • Pursuit practices 
    • video technology
    • stop and search procedures
    • intervention programs 

    Departments would have to show compliance in all areas to receive federal funds, in addition to adhering to a civilian bill of rights.

    “Police brutality has gone on for all too long, it’s been too widespread and we are probably not going to solve this with a single bill or a single answer,” Pocan said. “ This is a systematic problem that we need to address — from the roots of racism to the very real problems of violence from police.”

    A good starting point, he added, is a uniform set of nationwide policing standards.

    “From Florida to Washington, Maine to California, there should be a common standard for law enforcement,” Pocan said in his statement announcing the bill. “We cannot continue to fund new initiatives for police departments to improve while the same systemic problems continue.”

    Ruth Conniff
    Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine, and opened the Progressive’s office in Washington, DC, during the Clinton Administration, where she made her debut as a political pundit on CNN’s Capital Gang Sunday and Fox News. She moved to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a year in 2017, where she covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Donald Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, and other radio and television programs. In 2011, she did award-winning coverage of the uprising against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Conniff graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal.