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As the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act collects dust in Congress with neither side willing to budge on the issue of qualified immunity for police officers, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) is taking matters into her own hands.
Rep. Bush, along with 13 co-sponsors and supporting Reps. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), introduced the People’s Response Act on Monday.
“Public safety is a public health issue. It’s time our approach reflects that,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “The People’s Response Act will transform public safety into a system of care rather than criminalization, healing rather than incarceration, and prevention rather than policing. We are safer when our communities are well funded, our people are healthy and housed, and our children have nutritious meals, excellent schools, and green spaces to play in.”
The People’s Response Act
In order to therapeutically address the mental health and substance abuses crises and the chronic disinvestment of resources in marginalized communities, Rep. Bush is seeking a new approach to public safety.
If passed, the legislation would “create a new public safety division within the Department of Health and Human Services to fund and coordinate research, technical assistance, and grant programs related to non-carceral, health-centered investments in public safety,” according to a press release.
“For too long, our flawed approach to public safety has centered criminalization, surveillance and incarceration, rather than care, justice and healing,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “Our bill would help change that by directing the federal government to take a health-centered approach to public safety and investing in trauma-informed, community-based responses that will truly keep people safe.
Creating a new federal first responders unit
The proposed legislation would also launch a federal first responders unit that will support states and local governments with emergency health crises. It would also research alternatives to public safety to focus on health-based and non-punitive responses throughout the federal government. In addition, the bill would provide $7.5 billion in grant funding for state and local governments to fully fund public safety and crisis response.
“I am proud to join my colleagues Congresswomen Cori Bush and Ayanna Pressley in introducing this urgently needed legislation,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). “It is well past time we take a public health approach to public safety.
Perhaps most significantly, the bill would establish a $2.5 billion First Responder Hiring Grant to create thousands of jobs and provide funding to state, local, and tribal government, as well as community organizations, to hire emergency first responders such as licensed social workers, mental health counselors, substance use counselors, and peer support specialists.
Bill has support from progressive lawmakers and civil rights organizations
More than 70 organizations have signed on to support the bill as well, including the Movement for Black Lives.
“The People’s Response Act is transformative legislation that puts us on the path toward achieving our full vision of safety for all Black people,” said Kayla Reed, Executive Director of Action St. Louis and leader of the Movement for Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project. “It moves us toward a shared vision of what truly keeps Black people safe.”
A full list of co-sponsors include: Reps. Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-00), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Alma Adams (NC-12), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14).
“Following a summer of protests to save Black lives, elected officials have a duty to respond to the demands of the people,” Rep Bush said. “Across the country, millions mobilized to demand that we transform our system of public safety to build a future where Black, brown, Indigenous, and marginalized communities can live full and joyous lives. The House of Representatives is the People’s House and we need the people’s response to this moment. We need the People’s Response Act.”