WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some House Democrats and civil rights activists say another proposed study of police brutality would be a waste of time and are calling for meaningful reforms, including tougher penalties.

"I don't think that this bill is going to help at all if police departments don't get it yet," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said Wednesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on legislation to set up the study.She said tougher penalties are needed to deter officers from "using the badge and the gun to violate people's civil rights."

Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., and Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., have proposed creating a five-member panel to study the "effectiveness of training, recruiting, hiring, oversight and funding policies and practices in law enforcement" in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, and report to Congress.

Hyde said the measure proposes solutions "to bolster the confidence the citizens have in their police and to provide effective training for police officers" that cannot be achieved through action in the civil and criminal courts.

Serrano, who represents the Bronx district where the fatal police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed street vendor from Guinea, has come to symbolize excessive use of force by police, said racism wasn't the only factor.

Police departments, he said, "must do a better job of recruiting, teaching use-of-force policies and selecting assignments for officers" because many lack the skills and training to deal effectively with people from other cultures.

Police groups expressed concern about the objectivity of the study panel; its members would be appointed by House and Senate leaders.