June 12, 2020
Democratic candidate Tracy Mitrano highlighted sharp differences between herself and incumbent Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY23) on the Justice in Policing Act (JIPA), the House bill to reform police work in the U.S. Mitrano made her remarks in her weekly media call with reporters across the district.
Citing the long history of civil rights movements and previous protests over police brutality, Mitrano said now is the time for meaningful reform. Current protests represent “an effort that I believe is different and is not going to stop until we start to get some real changes.”
JIPA would ban racial/ethnic profiling, choke holds and no-knock warrants. It requires use of dashboard/body cameras and reporting use of force incidents would be mandatory. A National Police Misconduct Registry would make it harder for police with a pattern of abuse to be hired in a new location.
“Many of the specific provisions have long been on the table,” said Mitrano. “But this moment is bringing them to a place not only of greater public understanding, but also inclusion in a bill that we pray will pass.”
If it doesn’t, it will be because of Republican opposition in the Senate and White House, she said.
“The majority of people in this country want to address structural racism. If we do not get JIPA in 2020, we will have different leadership in the White House in 2021, and we will get it through Congress then,” said Mitrano. “I am running because I want to bring these kinds of reforms to Congress.”
Mitrano accused Reed of exploiting issues of race because they have been polling so well. “He has his staff working at full tilt to get press releases out about how inspired he is by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, how he has attended a march in Elmira ‘and elsewhere.’ Then, when we have a good piece of legislation, his immediate reaction is to turn against it because the president doesn’t want him to support it.” If Reed were really dedicated to supporting BLM, he would resign as honorary chair of Trump’s re-election campaign in New York, she said.
“When Trump says ‘Jump,’ Reed asks, ‘How high?’ He does not ask ‘Why? Why are you rejecting this before it’s even come to your desk?’” Reed’s unwillingness to question Trump caused him to remain mum when Trump closed New York’s border with Canada, hurting businesses in his district. He voted against the Heroes Act because Trump didn’t want to send covid-19 relief money to county and municipal governments in blue states, harming governments in the district.
“I pledge that as a representative of this district in the next session of Congress, I will never let a president, a party, a Speaker of the House, a leader of a Senate or anybody else keep me from thinking about the implications of any measure and asking, “What impact does this have on the people in my district?”
In a press call the day before, Reed said he favors the national registry. He “does not disagree that some police agencies fall short when it comes to how they deal with people of color.” Reed thinks some elements of the act could have bipartisan support.
But he would rather Congress give police resources to implement better practices, such as training to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.
“I believe we must have that kind of training,” said Mitrano, and observed that JIPA would allocate funding for it.
“I am not for the defunding movement,” Mitrano asserted. “But before we start giving more money to police, we need to look more carefully at how they’re already spending it,” especially when it comes to purchasing military equipment.
Reed isn’t convinced police agencies have become militarized because they have armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades. He said they need to protect themselves: “There are bad guys out there.”
“There is no question that in the aftermath of 2001 a lot of money went into a militarized mode of policing because of the fear of external terrorism,” argued Mitrano. But “we did not stop and say, ‘Hey, if we already have systemic racism, what effect is this having on people in the communities that these police are designed to serve and protect?’
“The fact is, we do not appear to have a sustained attack from self-proclaimed terrorist forces,” said Mitrano. “Yet we still have the full militarization—and it’s being used against people like us. It’s being used against minorities and specifically African Americans.
“Wake up, America!” she added. “We may have militarized our police force for a good reason, but now it’s being used for an awful reason.”