WASHINGTON, D.C.—Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement today following the House passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act:
“George Floyd should be alive today. So should Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and so many others who have been killed by police brutality. Each of these Americans had hopes and dreams to accomplish, and countless joyful milestones left to experience. My heart is with their families and loved ones as they bear the shattering pain of this grief.
“But obviously, thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with the grieving, recognize that systemic racism has plagued our nation’s past and present, and stop it from poisoning our future. The police have a tough job, and I applaud those who rise up every day to undertake a dangerous job with the goal of providing justice fairly and equally to all members of the community.
“But even best-run departments and well-intentioned individuals are often operating inside a flawed system. We need systemic change—including banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants; creating a national database for police misconduct; reforming qualified immunity; and mandating the use of dashboard and body cameras.
“The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act includes all of those reforms and more, and I appreciate my colleagues in the House of Representatives who took a stand for progress and justice today by voting to pass it. I look forward to supporting this act in the Senate and seeing it signed into law by President Biden. We must ensure that every American—regardless of the color of their skin or where they live—has the same right to liberty and justice.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. said ‘the time is always right to do what is right.’ American lives depend on it, and the time to act is now.”
In 2020, Merkley used his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to help secure over $1 billion in additional resources for the U.S. Department of Justice, including the Civil Rights Division, which investigates police jurisdictions for wrongdoing. Merkley has also kept a steady drumbeat on the need to ban federal entities—including law enforcement officers—from using facial recognition technology, which is riddled with systemic inaccuracies and biases that disproportionately impact communities of color. To that end, he and U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey joined Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13) and Katherine Clark (D-MA-05) to introduce the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, and teamed up with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce the Ethical Use of Facial Recognition Act.