Rep. Lacy Clay, D- University City, says he hopes 2016 will see more progress in Congress on legislation that grew out of the shooting death of Michael Brown.
2015 began with the events of Ferguson fresh in the minds of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Many, including Clay, introduced bills to address everything from police access to - and use of - surplus military-type equipment, calls for more body cameras and increased training for law enforcement officers.
Clay sponsored HR 1065, a measure calling for police officers to be trained in a wide range of procedures with the aim of improving relations with the public. The bill focuses on grants provided by the Justice Department and says states not complying with the training requirements would face the loss of 20 percent of the grant funding provided by the Department of Justice.
Clay spoke with St. Louis Public Radio as lawmakers were wrapping up their final bills prior to leaving Washington last week. He said his bill, “would set a new tone for how communities are policed throughout the nation.”
At the moment, the bill sits in a House subcommittee and barring an unexpected change, will likely remain there through the balance of the 114th Congress.
A similar bill, with 53 Democratic co-sponsors, also sits in a House committee with few prospects of advancing in the Republican-controlled House.
The vast majority of bills introduced each year by both Democrats and Republicans don’t get much further than their first committee assignment. That’s particularly true of bills sponsored by members of the House minority party. Chamber rules strengthen the hand of the majority party, if its members stick together, and generally mean that minority party bills face dim prospects.
Funding for Body Cameras included in Omnibus
While many policy bills related to policing initiatives remain stuck in various committees, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D- Kansas City, issued a statement shortly after lawmakers passed the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending plan, to announce that the measure included $22.5 million for body cameras.
“From the death of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, to the tragic murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, and the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore this spring, now more than ever, the public has called for reform and accountability,” Cleaver wrote. “Body Cameras will serve to increase transparency.”
Clay and Cleaver say body cameras will benefit both the police and the public.