Merkley Announces Legislation for National Police Misconduct Database, Calls for Sweeping Action to Address Police Brutality

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today announced legislation, the National Police Misconduct Database and Transparency in Hiring Act, that would create a national database of police misconduct to create greater oversight and accountability across America. This legislation would help ensure that police officers who have been removed from their jobs for misconduct are not simply able to find a new job as a police officer in a different jurisdiction.

“We count on the police to protect and serve. We cannot allow officers who abuse their badge through racism and brutality to continue do so time and time again,” said Merkley. “We can’t legislate away racism or wave a wand to change culture, but we can make sure that there are mechanisms in place to hold people accountable for wrongdoing. A national database of police misconduct will be a critical tool for accountability—one of many reforms we need to honor the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others who should be with us today.”

As he announced the legislation, Senator Merkley also released the following statement outlining further action he intends to take to confront police brutality and systemic racism in American law enforcement:

“I’m inspired and moved by the hundreds of thousands of people across America marching and speaking out peacefully to address police brutality and the systemic racism that is embedded in our nation’s history and laws. I stand wholeheartedly with those calls and with the many Americans who are speaking up to create change and protect Black lives.

“I also have the immense privilege of being in a position to try to change the laws, so I want to tell Oregonians and Americans what I’m working for right now—recognizing the debt I owe to all of the people, especially all of those leaders of color, who have invested their time, money, blood, sweat, tears, and even their lives advocating, building this movement, and proposing solutions. These ideas and proposals are their work.

“A lot of policing policy is decided locally, by mayors and city councils and police chiefs and state governments. But just like we’ve done in the past, we need new laws that put the power of the federal government on the side of the people marching for justice. So here are some of the things I am working on right now to get into federal law:

  • Create a publicly searchable, national database of police officers who are found to have engaged in misconduct involving inappropriate use of force or discrimination.
  • Require national data collection of police-involved uses of force, including the demographics of officers and civilians involved.
  • Make police use of chokeholds and other physical tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow a civil rights violation.  
  • Require mechanisms for civilian oversight and review of local police departments’ policies and actions.
  • End the use of no-knock warrants, such as the one that led to the horrific death of Breonna Taylor.
  • End the use of qualified immunity to shield rogue police officers from legal accountability.
  • Incentivize states to pursue independent investigations, and, where warranted, criminal prosecutions of deadly force incidents, as well as training that emphasizes de-escalation.
  • Outlaw racial profiling in policing.
  • Require police to intervene if other officers are using excessive force.
  • End the transfer of battlefield-grade weapons from the U.S. Armed Forces to police departments.

“I also know this list is just a start, and look forward to discussions in the days ahead led by my colleagues Sens. Booker and Harris, along with colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, to move forward a comprehensive reform bill.

“We will not be able to scrub out this long-standing stain of racism and oppression overnight, or even in a single year or a single decade. But people came together across race, class, religion and geography half a century ago in a powerful Civil Rights Movement to end the Jim Crow discrimination written into our laws. Now a new generation of leaders is in the streets today, marching, fed up, demanding change, and writing a new chapter. I hear you and I am with you in this struggle. Power does not give up its grasp easily, but I believe that we can make real and purposeful strides toward an America that lives up to our powerful ideals of equality, opportunity, and justice for all.”