Congressman Cohen Introduces Criminal Justice and Voter Protection Bills

January 3, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a package of criminal justice and voter protection bills today on the first day of the new Congress:

  • Police Training and Independent Review Act
  • National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act
  • Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act
  • Fresh Start Act
  • John Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act
  • Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act

Criminal Justice Reform Bills

Congressman Cohen and Congressman Lacy Clay (D-Missouri), whose district includes Ferguson, Missouri, introduced the Police Training and Independent Review Act, which would provide federal funding as an incentive for states to require sensitivity require training on ethnic and racial bias, cultural diversity, and interactions with the disabled, mentally ill and new immigrants, and conduct independent investigation and prosecution of incidents in which police use of deadly force results in a death or injury. 

Congressman Cohen introduced the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act which would require recipients of federal law enforcement funding to collect data on all instances in which deadly force was used by law enforcement, including the race of the individual against whom deadly force is used, and report it to the Department of Justice. 

Congressman Cohen introduced the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act which would establish a grant program to assist state and local law enforcement with the purchase and operation of body cameras to be worn by police officers.

Congressman Cohen introduced the Fresh Start Act which would give certain nonviolent ex-federal offenders a chance to apply to have their nonviolent offenses expunged. It would also use federal funds to encourage states to pass similar expungement laws.

“These bills will help bring much needed reform to our criminal justice system, and help restore trust between police and the citizens they serve and protect,” said Congressman Cohen.  “Asking the local prosecutors to investigate the same local police with whom they need to work so closely on a day to day basis creates a conflict of interest which we should be working to end. Better training, statistics and video evidence will also help, as will an orderly process or enabling appropriate ex-offenders, who have completed their sentences, to re-enter society.  I want to thank my colleague Lacy Clay for his partnership on the Police Training and Independent Review Act. He is a tireless advocate on these issues.  I also want to thank Senator Tammy Duckworth for her leadership on this bill, and look forward to her introduction of a Senate companion soon.”

Voter Protection Bills

Congressman Cohen introduced the John Tanner Fairness in Redistricting Act which would require states to take politics out of the process of Congressional redistricting by placing it in the hands of an independent redistricting commission.

Congressman Cohen introduced the Streamlined and Improved Methods at Polling Locations and Early Voting Act, also known as the “SIMPLE” Voting Act, which would require states to allow early voting for federal elections for at least two weeks prior to election day, ensure that polling locations are within walking distance of a stop on a public transportation route, have sufficient voting systems, poll workers and other election resources are provided, and that wait times are fair and equitable for all voters across a state with no one required to wait longer than one hour to cast a ballot at a polling place.

“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy.  Congress needs to protect voting rights by making voting easier and more accessible,” said Congressman Cohen.  “Congress must also protect the democratic process by ensuring that districts are drawn fairly to serve the people and not for partisan gerrymandering.”