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William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

Floor Speech

Date: July 20, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MITCHELL. Mr. Speaker, it is unusual, I know, to have a Republican standing here in support of this amendment while a Republican from the Judiciary Committee opposes it, but like many Americans, I was concerned to see uniformed law enforcement who did not have agency insignia or names displayed on their uniforms during the protests in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

I believe, like many Americans, that transparency and accountability for law enforcement are important values of the American justice system.

Based on the recent protests, Ms. Houlahan came up with an amendment that I had some concerns about during the debate. She agreed in good faith to modify that to address those concerns.

You see, my oldest son is a police officer. He had to conduct police work both in uniform one day and undercover the second day in the crowd, ensuring that things did not get out of control. I talked to Ms. Houlahan about that. I said we need to protect those people, because it is valid law enforcement to have undercover officers. This language did that.

This language, in fact, addresses that and assures, if you are in uniform, if you are carrying a shield, if you are out there, you must identify what agency you are with and your name. Americans expect that.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, I will say to the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, no one is asking about identifying antifa. We are asking about identifying people we expect to protect all of us and to conduct themselves in the appropriate manner in law enforcement. To do that, they must identify themselves, and we must know who they are. Anything short of that is not effective police work, and my son would tell you that if he were here today.

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Mr. MITCHELL. Mr. Speaker, let me respond to, actually, the ranking member of the committee I serve on.

This is not about whether we identify the vehicle that law enforcement pulls up in; in fact, they often use unmarked vehicles. But when those law enforcement personnel climb out of the vehicle, we should identify who they are, what agency they are with.

In fact, they should announce themselves, because that is what law enforcement does; not come out without identity, without who they are, what their jurisdiction is, be that in Washington, D.C., or in Portland, Oregon.

They are not doing that. It is unacceptable. It is unacceptable in America.

This was debated at great length in committee, and this is what many of us agreed to do.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to recognize this just addresses appropriate identification of law enforcement personnel and vote in favor of this amendment.

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