Days after speaking before thousands of protesters outside Palo Alto City Hall who called attention to police brutality, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo this week joined federal lawmakers in proposing major reforms for law enforcement and raising concerns over reported surveillance of peaceful demonstrators.
Eshoo, who represents the Midpeninsula, is among more than 160 Democrats within the House of Representatives that introduced on Monday the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, "a bold first step to rebuild the lost trust between police departments and the communities they serve, and help heal our country," she said in a press release.
"The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others demonstrate the lack of accountability and justice when it comes to the killing of Black men and women in our country," Eshoo said. "Importantly, the legislation does not defund police departments. Rather, it requires state and local law enforcement to institute these important reforms in order to receive existing federal grant funding."
The proposed legislation calls for an end to chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants by federal officers, and restrictions on sending military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.
Federal officers would also be required to use dashboard and body cameras, the latter of which would also be mandated for state and local law enforcement agencies, which would spend dollars from the U.S. government for the equipment.
The act also seeks to change language in federal criminal statute so officers charged in court would be prosecuted based on a "recklessness" standard as opposed to a "willfullness" standard.
A National Police Misconduct Registry would also be created "to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave one agency, from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability," according to a fact sheet on the legislation.
On Tuesday morning, a Democratic coalition co-led by Eshoo and Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, signed a letter that demanded that federal agencies stop all illegal surveillance of peaceful protesters across the United States.
Signed by 35 members of Congress, the letter — addressed to the FBI, the National Guard Bureau, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs and Border Protection — was motivated by recent evidence and media reports indicating that the agencies made use of aircraft equipped with surveillance tools during protests that followed the May 25 death of Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
The equipment cited in the letter includes tools that can collect cellphone location data; "Stingrays," which have the ability to collect data on phone calls, text messages and browsing history of nearby cellular devices; various facial recognition technology; automated license plate readers; and other surveillance technology.
The letter also expressed "deep and profound concerns" over surveillance tactics that they said "are significantly chilling the First Amendment rights of Americans."
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.