Yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) reintroduced the Andrew Kearse Accountability for Denial of Medical Care Act.
The legislation would hold law enforcement officers criminally liable for failing to obtain medical assistance to people in custody experiencing medical distress.
In 2017, Andrew Kearse, a 36-year-old Black man, died of a heart attack in the back of a police cruiser after begging a police officer for help.
Instead of providing Mr. Kearse with medical assistance, the officer dismissed his pleas and waited precious minutes until after Mr. Kearse became nonresponsive to call for medical assistance. Despite failing to seek potentially life-saving care for Mr. Kearse, the officer involved was not charged with a crime.
“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.
“There can be no justice for Andrew Kearse or the many others who have died after being denied medical care while in custody. Justice would mean they’d still be alive today. There must, however, be accountability,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “We must pursue policies that keep Black, brown and other marginalized folks alive. If, God forbid, they die at the hands of law enforcement, the officer responsible cannot just simply walk away.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mazie Hirono, Jeff Merkley and Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.