June 16, 2020

Video: Kaine Joins Booker, Colleagues To Call For Passage Of Comprehensive Policing Legislation

You can watch video of Kaine’s floor speech here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine delivered a floor speech calling for passage of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Last week, Kaine joined Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris to introduce the legislation, the first comprehensive legislative approach to ending police brutality and changing the culture of law enforcement departments. The bill would hold police accountable in court for misconduct, increase transparency through better data collection, and improve police practices and training.

In his speech, Kaine highlighted the activism of young Virginians who are calling for real action to address systemic racism and discrimination.

“I pray that the engaged activism of our citizens has brought us to a new moment that will compel us to act, in ways large and small, in accord with the equality ideal that we profess to believe. This bill is a test of our resolve. And I urge my colleagues to meet the moment so we can look our young people in their faces and tell them that we truly heard them,” Kaine said.

Below are Kaine’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

On Saturday, I attended a rally for justice sponsored by two young women—one high schooler and one middle schooler—in my hometown. This rally was one of numerous marches and rallies that have occurred every day, often multiple times a day, in Richmond in the weeks since the horrific public murder of George Floyd.

Hundreds of people gathered in the Maggie L. Walker plaza in downtown to hear from our city’s young leaders. Many were graduates of the Class of 2020–that class whose senior year was upended in mid-March and who face a future that seems quite frightening at this moment.

I attended to listen. I wasn’t on the program and I didn’t ask to speak. I wanted to hear how our young people view this moment in time and what they are asking of us.

What I heard, in many different ways, was “no more politics as usual.”   No more police killings of people of color. No more empty promises of reform after each new policing outrage. No more education system that downplays the reality of injustice in this country since its birth and also downplays the contributions of African Americans, Indians, Latinos and others to our nation. No more veneration of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia or anywhere else in the country.

The police were at the rally, trying to keep the crowd from spilling from a plaza onto Broad Street where they would be endangered by passing vehicles. Some attendees advocated to defund the police but others disagreed. Some asserted “all cops are bad” but others disagreed.

It was robust, raw, diverse, and respectful—the epitome of peacefully assembling to petition government for redress of grievances contemplated by the First Amendment.

Just as activists want an end to “politics as usual,” I desperately want an end to “apathy as usual.”   Apathy of the citizenry is a chief guarantor of “politics as usual.”   And in the tremendous energy demonstrated by Richmonders, and communities throughout this nation, I am starting to be hopeful about the end of “apathy as usual.”

These young people are calling for real action. And they deserve it. That’s why I am proud to join Senators Booker, Harris and many others in supporting the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. We need to ban chokeholds, no knock warrants and racial profiling. We need to hold police officers and police departments accountable for violent and reckless behavior. We need to promote better training and professional accreditation of police departments—why do we demand that universities maintain accreditation to receive federal funds but make no such requirement of law enforcement agencies?  

And we need to do so much more—within the criminal justice system but also in all our systems—to dismantle the structures of racism that our federal, state, and local governments carefully erected and maintained over centuries.

But I am mindful of the challenge laid down by our young people—no more politics as usual. It is one thing to introduce a bill—we do it all the time here. So often, the introduction of the bill is all that occurs. No committee hearing, no committee vote, no floor vote, no signature by a President. Merely words on a page and a one day story. And possibly a blame game about who was at fault for nothing happening.

That has been my biggest disappointment in the Senate. Unlike my service at the local and state levels— where we took action and then engaged in healthy competition about who should get credit—in Congress, it is too often a story of inaction and then an unproductive competition over who should be blamed for nothing getting done.

I pray that the engaged activism of our citizens has brought us to a new moment that will compel us to act, in ways big and small, in accord with the equality ideal we profess to believe. This bill is a test of our resolve. I urge my colleagues to meet this moment so we can look our young people in the face and tell them that we truly heard them.

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