Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Congress Passes A Bill To Fund De-Escalation Training For Cops. Will It Make A Difference?

It will now go to President Biden's office desk for his signature.

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Police use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse protesters during a demonstration against police violence and racial injustice in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
Police use chemical irritants and crowd control munitions to disperse protesters during a demonstration against police violence and racial injustice in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
Photo: Noah Berger (AP)

On Wednesday, the House passed bipartisan legislation that would aid law enforcement agencies across America to provide de-escalation training. This training would focus on lessening the number of officer-involved deaths when it comes to encounters with people suffering from mental illness.

The bill received Republican support and passed 264-162. For the last two years, Congress has been working to pass police reform legislation following the killing of George Floyd. Floyd’s death served as the catalyst for 2020 international police brutality protests.

The legislation was first presented by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. On Wednesday, Cornyn explained in a statement:

“By giving law enforcement the tools they need to help those experiencing mental health emergencies and other crises, we can help make communities safer by building a stronger bridge between the criminal justice system and mental health care.”

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Now, the bill is heading to President Joe Biden’s desk for his approval. However, will it make an actual difference? People who are suffering from mental illness—and who have not received proper treatment for it—are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other people approached by police. This data comes from a Treatment Advocacy Center report shared in 2015.

And of course, out of this group, Black people are disproportionately affected. Wednesday’s bill amends a 1968 federal crime law to allow $70 million in yearly grant funding for police training on alternatives to the use of force often exercised by officers. In addition, it will mandate that the Justice Department develop a series of curriculum and training topics alongside with civil liberties groups and mental health experts.

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However, past initiatives that have increased police funding have been ineffective when it comes to the treatment of Black and brown people. Shouldn’t that $70 million be invested in the poor and marginalized communities that are frequently overpoliced? We doubt that millions of dollars of more training will truly change their racist and violent ways.