In 2014, Congresswoman Cori Bush saw the effects of policing on her St. Louis community firsthand. The police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, became a flash point during the Black Lives Matter protests and one that, Bush says, was life-changing.
Now, nearly a decade later, Bush has gone from being an activist to leading Congressional legislation for police reform.
Instead of progress since that fateful day 18-year-old Brown was fatally shot, the U.S. saw more high profile deaths and continued investments in policing.
“Our country is failing to keep our communities safe. We see time and time again, that our country’s allegiance to mass incarceration does not work. We have long needed to transform our approach to community safety, by investing in the health and well-being of all our communities,” said Congresswoman Bush in a press statement.
As part of those efforts to “transform” public safety, Bush has re-introduced the People’s Response Act, with Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Morgan McGarvey (KY-03), Summer Lee (PA-12), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) joining to sponsor the legislation.
Among other provisions, the act would fund “non-carceral health-centered investments in public safety.” Some of these investments include establishing a:
$2.5 billion First Responder Hiring Grant to create thousands of jobs and provide funding to state, local, and tribal governments, 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, in an effort to improve crisis response and increase non-carceral, health-based approaches to public safety.
Dozens of organizations are endorsing the legislation, including Color of Change, Equal Justice USA, Human Rights Watch, March for our Lives, MomsRising, and Movement for Black Lives.
“Instead of punishment, we need prevention. But our current system largely responds to acts of violence rather than intervening long before someone even considers harming someone else,” said Elena Perez, Senior Policy Associate, March For Our Lives, in the statement. “The People’s Response Act does just that by offering funding to build systems of care that stop violence before it happens. It’s a holistic, public health approach to the epidemic of gun violence and will make our communities safer. March For Our Lives is proud to support this commonsense legislation that will transform what safety looks like in our neighborhoods.”
Three years after the killing of George Floyd– which pushed the Black Lives Matter movement even further on the global stage– federal police reform has yet to be enacted.
Bush is hoping this legislation is just the beginning in long-awaited comprehensive reform at the federal level. “Far from being a standalone piece of legislation,” she stated, “the PRA is a central component of an affirmative vision of community safety that will undoubtedly save lives.”