Philadelphia City Council OKs resolution urging Congress to pass George Floyd Act

‘My resolution calling on congress to pass the George Floyd Act is in the spirit of honoring the life and legacy of George Floyd and criminal justice reform particularly around police accountability and transparency,’ Johnson said

By: - February 10, 2023 12:13 pm

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who represents District 2, could face federal charges over links to a Universal Companies project (Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune, City of Philadelphia)

By Stephen Williams

Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution Thursday urging Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. It comes a few days after President Joe Biden urged action on criminal justice reform.

Council member Kenyatta Johnson, D-2nd, introduced the resolution.

“My resolution calling on congress to pass the George Floyd Act is in the spirit of honoring the life and legacy of George Floyd and criminal justice reform particularly around police accountability and transparency,” Johnson said. “We’ve recently seen the life of Tyre Nichols taken away senselessly by law enforcement. One of the key components of the bill is ending qualified immunity. It allows for officers to engage in conduct which is unbecoming of an officer without them being held [personally] liable.”

Nichols, a 29-year-old father of a son, 4, was beaten to death by five Memphis police offers on Jan. 7. The officers have been fired, arrested and are awaiting trial.

On Feb. 24, 2021, the police reform bill named for Floyd was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, which it subsequently passed. But in the U.S. Senate, negotiations between Republicans and Democrats broke down in September of that year, which stalled the legislation.

At the time, President Joe Biden urged for its passage.

“Without qualified immunity more officers would think twice before they engaged in behavior which is unbecoming of the badge,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, 1,176 people were killed by police in 2022, the most since 2013.

The bill also features other criminal justice reform policies, such as ending chokeholds and a greater focus on community policing.

“You have to build that bridge between the community and law enforcement,” Johnson said.

On Feb. 7, at the president’s State of Union speech before both houses of Congress in Washington, D.C., Biden said, “Just as every cop when they pin on that badge in the morning has a right to be able to go home at night, so does everybody else out there. Our children have a right to come home safely. Equal protection under the law is a covenant we have with each other in America.”

Biden acknowledged that society asks law enforcement too much.

“We know police officers put their lives on the line every single night and day. And we know we ask them in many cases to do too much — to be counselors, social workers, psychologists; responding to drug overdoses, mental health crises and so much more,” Biden said. “But what happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better.”

Biden hosted Nichols’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, and his stepfather, Rodney Wells, who sat with first lady Jill Biden.

They stood when the president acknowledged them and quoted Nichols’ mother, who said: “Something good must come out of this.”

On May 25, Biden signed a historic executive order that incorporated some of the police reforms in the George Floyd Act, including: Banning chokeholds and carotid restraints unless deadly force is authorized; creating a national data base of police misconduct; strengthening pattern or practice investigations; creating consistent discipline; mandating body cameras; along with improving training and diversity recruitment and hiring.

Meanwhile, in honor of the Eagles second Super Bowl appearance since 2018, on Sunday playing against the Kansas City, Council chambers were decorated with Eagles posters and all Council members sported Eagles gear.

In other Council business, the body passed a resolution honoring the 31st annual African American Children’s Book Fair to be held Saturday between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 12th and Arch streets.

“Reading opens up a world of opportunity,” said Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, founder of the book fair and the African American Children’s Book Project.

Stephen Williams is a reporter at the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared. 

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