Center for Disability Rights and The Daniel Initiative with 45 Organizations: On the Need to Strengthen the Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (JPA)

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Dara Baldwin

On May 11, 2021 Center for Disability Rights and The Daniel Initiative sent a sign on letter to Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) with our concerns and recommendations for making the Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280) a stronger bill that will actually create accountability and change in law enforcement in this country. We were joined by 45 civil and human rights organizations. This letter was also sent to both the House and Senate leadership, the entire House of Representatives and US Senate, and the White House. We remain hopeful that Congress will take this opportunity to create bold legislation that will create the change many in this country is demanding to end the harming and killing of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).

From the letter:
The Center for Disability Rights, The Daniel Initiative, and the 45 undersigned civil and human rights groups write at this critical time to inform you of our concerns and provide some language proposals for the Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (JPA) H.R. 1280 . The bill does not provide assurances of safety nor the ability to hold law enforcement accountable, therefore police violence continues unabated. The plan for this legislation from House leadership was to pass the JPA as is and send that version to the US Senate to edit and strengthen the language. Many activists and policy makers informed the House that this was not an effective strategy but we were ignored. We understand that there are various conversations happening about the language for a senate version of the JPA and we send this letter to you with information and suggested language changes in that work. We look forward to working with you and others in the senate on our suggestions.

House leadership decided to proceed with a floor vote on the JPA without engaging a number of expert advocacy organizations. There was no consultation with on-the-ground activists and other stakeholders about our legitimate concerns. The bill simply does not meet this moment, or provide safety to Black and Brown communities that are historically over-policed.

Since the JPA’s inception in the 116th Congress, it has been characterized by a rushed closed-rule process. This resulted in the undermining and exclusion of expert activists demanding justice and accountability for the killing of Black people by law enforcement. On numerous occasions, advocates sent correspondences to the House of Representatives to strengthen the JPA in meaningful ways. This outreach included suggested bill language and guidance in an attempt to improve the legislation. On March 3rd we sent a sign on letter to all of Congress with 40 signatures expressing our concerns and opposition for this process and the bill as written. Unfortunately, these efforts were largely ignored and in most cases outright dismissed.

In addition to the letter CDR and TDI hosted a two-night discussion about the JPA.

Description of the event:
“Join The Daniel Initiative and Center for Disability Rights for this 2-Night convening that explores police accountability from a community perspective. On Night 1, advocates, and policy experts will discuss the realities of the Justice in Policing Act. The second night will center activists, faith leaders, community organizers, Black law enforcement, and academicians in fireside conversations on police accountability.”

Day 1: Wednesday, May 12, 2021 – 8:00pm ET – Via ZOOM (registration link below)

Part I – The Bill – Real Talk about the JPA: Does it Create Accountability Solutions and What Would a Weak Policing Bill Mean for Next Steps? (JPA = Justice in Policing Act H.R. 1280)

A panel discussion with experts in the field discussing the political landscape and policy of the JPA.

Dara Baldwin – Director of National Policy, Center for Disability Rights – Twitter & IG: @NJDC07

Breon Wells – President and CEO of The Daniel Initiative – Twitter: @RealDaniel24 & IG: @imbreonwells

Chris Scott – Senior Policy Advisor for Criminal Justice, Police Reform, and Education, Open Society Policy Center – Twitter @UniquelyTrill & IG: @uniquelytrill

Day 2 – Thursday, May 13, 2021 – 8pm ET
Part II: Community Conversations on Police Accountability
Two fireside conversations with community leaders from around the country and different sectors – faith based leaders, law enforcement, activists, policy makers and thought leaders!

Conversation 1: Moderated by Chris Scott, Open Society Policy Center
• Sonia Pruitt – The Black Police Experience
• Rev. Alexander – National Council of Churches
• Shawn Kennedy – National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NABLEO)
• Carlton T. Mayers III, Esq. – Mayers Strategic Solutions, LLC
Conversation 2: Moderated by Breon Wells, The Daniel Initiative
• Lydia Brown – Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
• David Harris – Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School
• Ron Hampton – Blacks in Law Enforcement of America
• Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr. – The Ohio Council of Churches

ASL Interpretation: Antonio Goodwin & Deblois Hitchman *THANK YOU!
Vendor: Interpret This, Inc (Black owned Business – owned by Jaron Gilchrist)

Link for Night 1 of the Conversation:

Link for Night 2 of the Conversation:

There is a resource sheet that provides a number of the reports, articles and other information discussed on both nights.

CDR & TDI continue to work with Congress to create a stronger JPA. We look forward to working with all and will report out on our work. This also is not the only work we are doing around transformative justice reform. These events were the launch of a new platform to discuss and work on federal policy around law enforcement with communities and on the ground activists to build power in these same communities and create change! More information to come!

The full letter can be read here.

If your organization would like to sign onto this letter of concern please go here.

For more information on this work contact Dara Baldwin, Director of National Policy, Center for Disability Rights at