The “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” was introduced in 2021 after George Floyd died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, sparking worldwide protests over racial injustice.
The bill, which aims to stop aggressive law enforcement tactics, passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in 2021 but stalled in the Senate. Biden on Thursday called on Congress to send the legislation to his desk.
One of the biggest sticking points between the two parties on police reform is the issue of qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from liability in most civil lawsuits. Democrats have insisted that qualified immunity get the ax in reform legislation, but Republicans have dug in to defend it.
Scott noted that he doesn’t often speak on the Senate floor but has stood up in the chamber 10 times over the past eight years to call for police reform and signaled he will not abandon the issue. He suggested that other incidents of police brutality were foreseeable and could have been prevented if Democrats didn’t filibuster his legislation. The Hill
Scott said that lawmakers should be able to rally around a bill to provide more training to help police de-escalate dangerous situations and create a duty for officers to intervene with colleagues using excessive force, but questioned whether Democrats are really open to meeting Republicans in the middle.
Senators are seeking to revisit police reform talks after the release of graphic videos of Memphis officers fatally beating Tyre Nichols, although some are skeptical they’ll reach an agreement that can pass in the new divided Congress.
Nichols’ death is the latest high-profile example of police using excessive force against Black people and other minorities. Attorney Ben Crump said Nichols’ death should finally prompt lawmakers to act.
“It is this culture that says, `It doesn’t matter whether the police officers are Black or Hispanic or white, that it is somehow allowed for you to trample on the constitutional rights of certain citizens from certain ethnicities and certain communities,`” Crump said on CNN.
The two sides were closing in on a deal on some provisions, like imposing limits on chokeholds and “no knock” warrants, providing mental health resources for officers and preserving records of misconduct. But talks stalled over some irreconcilable differences, including whether to roll back qualified immunity for police officers — a priority of civil rights advocates that Republicans strongly opposed.
In March 2021, the Democratic-led House voted 220-212 to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Monday that he has initiated a discussion with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the committee’s top Republican, about one of the major sticking points of failed bipartisan police reform negotiations two years ago: qualified immunity for officers.
Republican House of Representatives Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” cautioned against rushing into new legislation to create new mandates for police.
”These five individuals did not have any respect for life. And again, I don’t think these five guys represent the vast, vast majority of law enforcement. But I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to stop the kind of evil we saw in that video,” he said.
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., also stopped short of calling for policing legislation but said law enforcement needs to do a better job carrying out background and reference checks for new officers .“There are bad apples in every profession, bad politicians, bad police officers — and they need to be held accountable,” Comer said Monday at a National Press Club event in Washington.