The VOX BUBBLE series is where VOX ATL’s teen staff members give you their bite sized, unadulterated opinions about society, politics, and pop culture. Taken straight from the VOX ATL groupchat, VOX BUBBLE is meant to be conversational in tone, and gives an easy-to-consume look at what Atlanta teens think about big issues in America. This week, we discussed the recently introduced George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The name George Floyd is representative of the inequities in policing that disproportionately affect people of color. His death (along with many others) made Americans painfully aware, again, of the realities of our deplorable justice system; sparking protests and re-igniting the public’s cries for police reform. To mend the fissure created between the American public and the justice system, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif) has introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their unlawful actions. However, many activists believe that this bill does not go far enough to ensure effective police reform.
“A Step In The Right Direction”
Emory Paul, 18, Walton High: “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, though not merely enough to combat systemic racism and police brutality rampant across this country, is a step in the right direction to holding law enforcement accountable for their unethical actions. This act will begin the process of restoring transparency in a corrupt system.”
Zariah Taylor, 16, Carver Early College High School: “It’s disgusting that Congress is using George Floyd’s name for an act that will inevitably kill more black people. The Bill promises to offer grants to law enforcement which is disgusting to me. This money that is being spent could be used to help communities directly. Some of the items in the bill, such as making police wear body cameras, have already been proven not to work. We literally have footage of George Floyd dying and it’s still taking forever for him to receive justice. Video cameras won’t solve anything until our justice system changes.”
I am pleased that the House will vote next week on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I encourage the House to pass it. Following Senate consideration, I hope to be able to sign into law a landmark police reform bill.
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 25, 2021
The Bill Has the Floyd Family’s Support
The Floyd family attorneys support this bill, stating that it “represents a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of color.” With jury selection underway in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, this is a very interesting time for this bill to traverse the Democrat-controlled House and be introduced into Senate. This bill is intent on limiting qualified immunity as a defense to liability, banning chokeholds, and attempting to address implicit biases that have plagued U.S. law enforcement. President Biden shared his support for the bill via Twitter last month claiming that it could be “a landmark police reform bill.” Overall, the bill states that it is attempting to improve transparency by creating a National Police Misconduct Registry which may aid in holding law enforcement accountable in the future.
“Justice is Imperative”
Jennie Matos, 15, The Lovett School: “I really hope that justice is served for George Floyd and his family. But sadly, after the verdict for Breonna Taylor and countless others, I’m a bit skeptical of a fair trial and a murder conviction for Derek Chauvin. I have little faith in the justice system sadly, but i’m trying to be optimistic and hope for the best outcome for the Floyd Family. They deserve better.”
James Rhee, 17, Heritage High School: “Justice is imperative. [Derek Chauvin’s] trial is symbolic of the war against systemic racism and I really hope the justice system will not fail us the same way they did with Breonna Taylor’s case. I still shudder at the video that set this nation ablaze in May last year. Our nation’s justice system has a deep history of racism, and we cannot just give police officers a slap on a wrist for murdering a man in broad daylight…my stomach churns at the thought of this…”
Where Is The Money Going?
Another aspect of this bill is that the Attorney General will provide grants for states to conduct investigations for police-involved deaths. This is noteworthy because in SEC. 114 LAW ENFORCEMENT GRANTS the bill says that money is being earmarked for “community-based groups” that would serve as watchdog groups overseeing police departments. However, wording in this part of the bill is rather vague, so it’s unclear who would actually be receiving these grants. Because of the lack of clarity, some fear the government could be inadvertently be giving more funding to police departments and/or allowing it to continue to investigate itself or research into the effectiveness of its existing programs. Which may perpetuate the already existing issues that have been present since the inception of policing in the U.S. With Senate Republicans steadfastly against the bill, the future of The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act remains uncertain.
Jennie Matos, 15, The Lovett School: “I’m a huge proponent for taking away funding from police, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I am interested to see how this new police transparency will be enforced.”