Senate Must Reimagine Public Safety, Enact Meaningful Reform

Contact: Rafael Medina, [email protected], 202.869.0390

WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, will call on Congress to bring about transformative policy solutions that promote accountability, reimagine public safety, and respect the dignity of all people. In particular, Gupta points to proposals in the New Era of Public Safety report and Vision for Justice platform that would help build trust between communities and law enforcement, restore confidence, and reimagine a new paradigm of policing. Gupta previously served as the head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Black communities deserve real justice: structural change to eradicate white supremacy, freedom from unjust and targeted policing, and the space and resources to grieve and heal. The same structural racism that permeates our justice system and sanctions police brutality has also robbed many Black communities of the resources they need and deserve. The confluence of what is now two pandemics — structural racism and COVID-19 — along with a looming election that will define who we are as a nation will make this moment entirely unique,” said Gupta in her submitted testimony.

In her testimony, available here, Gupta outlined specific recommendations Congress should take, including:

  1. Reduce the Use of Excessive Force
  2. Prohibit Racial Profiling and Require Data Collection
  3. Ban the Use of Chokeholds and Other Restraint Maneuvers
  4. End Militarization of Police
  5. Prohibit the Use of No-Knock Warrants
  6. Strengthen Federal Accountability Systems
  7. Create a National Police Misconduct Registry
  8. End Qualified Immunity
  9. Invest in Non-Police Responses to Crises and Community Needs

“I am pleased that many of these accountability measures have been included in the newly introduced Justice in Policing Act of 2020, and I look forward to additional discussion about the ways in which we can improve upon the proposed legislation. I am more troubled, however, by a recent outline for legislation circulated by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). Data collection, training, commissions, and body cameras are woefully inadequate responses. In many places, we have tried these policies already — and yet here we are again, grappling with police officers continuing to kill African Americans with impunity. Significantly stronger police accountability must be the cornerstone of any meaningful reform,” Gupta said.

The Leadership Conference and more than 450 other civil rights organizations recently called on congressional leadership to swiftly begin to rectify the legacy of white supremacy and anti-Black racism that has led to police violence with impunity against Black people across our country.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund, sister organization to The Leadership Conference, previously launched the New Era of Public Safety initiative featuring tools to increase trust, fairness, justice, and mutual respect between police departments and the communities they serve. The report and toolkit offer recommendations and advocacy tools for communities and police departments to co-create public safety and implement 21st century policing practices.

In 2019, The Leadership Conference launched a Vision for Justice platform that outlines our approach to redefining public safety. In that platform, we call for a holistic reimagining of public safety, one that shifts resources away from criminalization and policing, toward investments in programs and services that create healthy, inclusive, and safe communities. That platform calls on us to adopt a transformative vision for how we evaluate and determine public safety priorities, while also ending mass incarceration, criminalization, and over-policing.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit