by Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire

The House of Representatives on March 3 passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, an ambitious police reform bill that would ban chokeholds and overhaul qualified immunity protections for officers.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is named in honor of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a White Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired, and he faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin’s trial and jury selection began on Monday, March 8.

The legislation, H.R. 1280, passed 220-212 — although a Republican Congressman Lance Gooden (R-Texas) said he’d voted “yes” by mistake and changed the official record to reflect his opposition.

The bill now heads to the Senate where Democrats still need 10 Republicans to vote yes for passage.

While Democrats hold a slight majority in the Senate – 52-50, counting Vice President Kamala Harris – 60 “yes” votes are required for passage.

Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) says she remains confident that enough Senate Republicans will support the measure. Others agreed while applauding the action in the House.

“For too long, we have endured the pain of watching or seeing the deaths of people of color, particularly Black men and women, at the hands of rogue police officers who operate with impunity and take it upon themselves to be the arbiters of life and death,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters declared. “The trauma that our communities feel is only made worse by the ways in which we are forced to reckon with the reality that Black people are over 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than White people, and Black teenagers are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than White teenagers.”

Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci issued a joint statement on behalf of the family of George Floyd.

“We are deeply gratified and grateful for the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives in passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, responding to the mandate issued by thousands of Americans who took to the streets last summer to raise their voices for change,” the lawyers wrote.

“This represents a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of color and impose accountability on law enforcement officers whose conscious decisions preserve the life or cause the death of Americans, including so many people of color. Now we urge the Senate to follow suit and send this important legislation to President Biden.”

The bill would ban neck restraints and “no knock” warrants in drug cases at the federal level. It would also reform qualified immunity, a tenet that makes it difficult to sue officers.

“America’s standing in the world as a beacon for justice demands that we live up to the principles of justice in everything we stand for,” Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said. “The passage of this bill pushes us further along the path toward realizing justice for all.

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