As demonstrators continued to take to the streets to push for change, North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield vowed his colleagues will be pushing just as hard for change in Congress.
Butterfield said his life experience has taught him that the police are “absolutely necessary in our communities,” but the country is demanding responsible police officers and accountability.
Butterfield said that members of the Congressional Black Caucus are assembling a package of legislation to present to Democratic House leadership in the next few days that addresses everything from qualified immunity to the use of chokeholds.
“Right now police officers have qualified immunity and that’s why I believe many of them engage in this outrageous behavior,” explained Butterfield.”If we could create a situation where they could be held accountable in civil court and account for damages, then I believe we will see better conduct.”
Another proposal being floated would be the creation of a nationwide database that identifies trends, to prevent an officer who gets fired for excessive force from simply getting a job with another department in another county or another state.
Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) joined Butterfield in demanding reforms in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
She said she was especially troubled to see law enforcement using tear gas against demonstrators in her own district.
“I’m just appalled at these chemical agents they are using. I think it’s just creating a larger problem,” said Rep. Adams, who would like to see use of the gas banned.
A vote on the proposed legislation could come at the end of June.
Both Adams and Butterfield also criticized President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis on Wednesday, which has disproportionately affected black communities in North Carolina.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services, African Americans make up 22% of North Carolina’s population but have accounted for 35% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
“The truth is that at every step along the way, the Trump administration has ignored the racial disparities of this crisis. In particular, minority owned-businesses in districts like mine in Eastern North Carolina have been devastated by this pandemic. They have asked for help from the federal government, and they have been ignored,” said Butterfield.