New Jersey Senator Cory Booker detailed two facets of a plan he and his congressional colleagues are working on to stop abuses of power by police during an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Thursday.
Booker’s interview with Colbert was wide-ranging, and frequently emotional, especially when the senator spoke about the protests against police brutality in Washington, D.C., where a slew of different law enforcement officers have been deployed to confront the demonstrations. “I’m a United States senator and I left here late last night, and I literally thought twice about putting on my shorts and a T-shirt to walk home,” Booker said. “Because the painful thing that — and the conversation I’ve had with many other black men this last week — is to know you have this fear, you’ve had it all your life.”
Booker addressed his reforms later in the interview, saying the goal was to change the standards “that hold [law enforcement officers] immune from civil or criminal penalties.” As it stands now, the two things dictating those standards are known as “Section 242” and “qualified immunity,” respectively.
Section 242, Booker explained, “makes it very hard to get a criminal conviction against a cop who has done things that violate all of our community standards as well as the law.” He continued, “And then their eligibility for civil penalties, there is a standard that has gotten called ‘qualified immunity,’ which is what it sounds like — making officers, many of them who’ve done very bad things, immune from civil suits as well.”
One of the pillars of the bill, Booker said, will be to ensure that “no one is above the law, and that if you do heinous things that tear at the fabric of our community or even endanger or take lives, that the federal government of the United States will take action to hold you accountable.” As a way to further increase accountability, Booker called for the creation of a database to track police misconduct, shootings and killings.
“I will fight to get these things done so that, perhaps, the kids in my life will not have to ask themselves, ‘Am I safe just walking or jogging in my neighborhood?'” Booker said. “To me, I want to tear down systems of oppression in this country, like mass incarceration, laws that enable people who have no remorse — like the person who killed George Floyd — that we as a society, good people of goodwill, have systems that can hold them accountable for their actions.”