President Joe Biden, in his first address to Congress, pressed lawmakers to send him a massive police reform bill in the name of George Floyd by May 25 — the one-year anniversary of his murder. It never happened. After missing that deadline, bipartisan talks sputtered over the summer before eventually collapsing. While Washington has little to show for its efforts, state and local governments spent 2021 charging ahead with changes of their own, from overhauling police training to restoring the right to vote for formerly incarcerated people. Indiana, Nevada, Texas and Virginia all enacted laws this year aimed at beefing up police training by focusing on communication skills and de-escalation techniques. Meanwhile, a number of states have introduced rules saying officers must intervene when they see a colleague engaging in excessive force or misconduct. California, Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina implemented laws that either establish or enhance access to databases of police officers who have been fired for misconduct to make sure they are not hired in another jurisdiction. Louisiana went a step further by enacting a law that imposes fines on agencies that fail to report when an officer is fired for wrongdoing. To some advocates, criminal justice issues are better handled by states, not Congress. “It's important that the federal government act, but they have limited authority,” said Nancy La Vigne, executive director of the Council on Criminal Justice’s task force on policing. For instance, the vast majority of the country’s roughly 18,000 police departments are controlled at the state level, and many states oversee a large swath of the nation's prisons and jails compared to the federal government. "So that makes it all the more important that states don't wait for the feds and do things on their own," La Vigne added. Even though Congress was unable to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, some experts say the ambitious nature of the legislation helped set the tone for what states can achieve. "It would have done a lot, but it was necessary for states to take the example of the Justice in Policing Act and use that as a way to consider areas of change," said Arthur Ago, director of the Criminal Justice Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. One of the states codifying sweeping reforms this year was Washington, where Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed bills that banned chokeholds, neck restraints and no-knock warrants like the kind that helped lead to Breonna Taylor's killing in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020. The Washington Legislature also passed a bill that allows judges to revisit sentences of people serving lengthy prison terms. Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a senior researcher at The Sentencing Project, said much of the work at the state level has been driven by grassroots activists, spurred in large part by the deaths of Floyd and Taylor at the hands of police. “I think growing bipartisan interest in this issue is because of the recognition of the ineffectiveness of incarceration, how expensive it is and the realization that we don't need to be spendin . . . read the full article here.