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June 19, 2020

Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren Formally Introduce Legislation to Hold Police & Correctional Officers Accountable for Denying Medical Care to People in Custody

Bill Text | One Pager

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) formally introduced the Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act, legislation to hold police and correctional officers who refuse medical treatment to individuals in custody criminally liable. The bill is named for Andrew Kearse, who died of a heart attack while in police custody in 2017 after officers ignored his pleas for medical attention.

“Andrew Kearse should be alive right now,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “To be denied medical care while in police custody is cruel and inhumane. There can be no justice for Mr. Kearse and his family, in a just society, he would still be alive. But there must be accountability. This bill will help ensure accountability by holding officers who refuse medical care to those in their custody criminally liable for their inaction.”

“Andrew Kearse died begging for help and the police officer who looked the other way got off scot-free. Our bill will make sure that officers who fail to obtain potentially life-saving care for people in their custody are held accountable,” said Senator Warren. “This legislation is just one step – I will keep working with my colleagues for a complete overhaul of our policing and justice systems.”

The Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act would:

  • Hold federal law enforcement officials criminally liable when they fail to obtain or provide medical care to individuals in their custody who are experiencing medical distress.
  • Require training for federal law enforcement officials on assisting individuals in medical distress.
  • Direct the Inspectors General of the agencies that employ federal law enforcement officers to investigate potential violations and refer them to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Grace Napolitano (D-VT), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

Congresswoman Pressley has been a leading voice for creating a more just legal system. Earlier this month, she introduced H.R. 7085 the Ending Qualified Immunity Act to eliminate qualified immunity and restore individuals’ ability to obtain relief when police officers and other state and local officials violate their legal and constitutional rights. Last month, she introduced H.Res 988, A Resolution to Condemn Police Brutality, Racial Profiling and the Excessive Use of Force. Last year, Congresswoman Pressley introduced the People’s Justice Guarantee, a radical reimagining of the American criminal legal system that centers the humanity, safety, and dignity of all people.


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