After Senate Vote, Merkley Calls for Real Change in American Policing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after voting against Republican-drafted legislation that fails to enact any structural change to policing in America. Merkley is a cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, a bill that would enact sweeping changes to address systemic racism and brutality in policing, but that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring to the floor for a vote.

“Millions of Americans have taken to the streets to demand real change across our nation. For decades, we have tried studies, commissions, and incentives to try to change the culture of policing in America. But Black and Brown Americans still live in fear that if they have an encounter with the police, they or their loved ones may not come home. It’s time to stop putting the same inadequate band-aids on this gaping wound. We need bold solutions.

“The goal we should all be working for is to produce a public safety system that is dedicated to the welfare of every member of the community, regardless of the color of their skin. As many have observed, the Republican bill does not change any of the structures that have contributed to systemic racism. It does not create real accountability for those who abuse the badge. It does not create a database of misconduct with full transparency. It does not even try to end some of the worst and most dangerous practices, like the no-knock warrant that cost Breonna Taylor her life. 

“I hope that the result of today’s vote is that the majority will agree to work in a bipartisan fashion to put together a bill that will truly tackle these systemic issues. That’s the type of bill that should be debated by the Senate, with a chance to contribute significantly to public safety for all.

“Americans have lived our whole lifetimes under a public safety system that, all too often, has inflicted harassment, brutality and even death on Black and Brown people for no reason other than the color of their skin. If we want to change this within our lifetimes, we must seize this moment to enact systemic change. Now is the time for real action.”