Home » What’s next for police reform on Capitol Hill? House, Senate have different approaches but not enough compromise – yet

What’s next for police reform on Capitol Hill? House, Senate have different approaches but not enough compromise – yet

WASHINGTON — Fortified by the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, national police reform legislation could soon emerge in the U.S. Senate, the lead Republican negotiating the measure said Wednesday.

The House already passed sweeping reforms in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last month. The bill would require data to be collected on police encounters, ban chokeholds blamed for the death of Eric Garner, prohibit racial profiling, end no-knock warrants such as the one that led to the killing of Breonna Taylor, funnel more funding to community-based policing, and make it easier to sue and prosecute police officers for misdeeds.

The bill, however, faces strong resistance from many Republicans in the Senate, where at least 10 GOP senators would be needed to pass the reforms.

Still, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is leading talks for Republicans, sounded optimistic about reaching a deal Wednesday.

“I think we are on the verge of wrapping this up in the next week or two, depending on how quickly [Democrats] respond to our suggestions,” Scott said.

He said that there are about five issues where the GOP is concerned, especially on the parts of the bill that make it easier to punish cops — sections on restricting so-called qualified immunity and lowering the standard for prosecution under what’s known as Section 242.

Qualified immunity for police comes from legal precedents that shield them from civil liability for actions they take in the course of doing their jobs. Section 242 says police can be prosecuted only in rare circumstances where it can be proven that they “willfully” broke the law. The House bill changes the standard to “knowingly or recklessly,” which is much easier to show.

Scott said the House’s steps on those issues go too far, but he also said he’s been talking about possible compromises with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who are leading Democrats’ efforts on reform.

“There is a way to put more of the onus or the burden on the department or on the employer than on the employee. I think that is a logical step forward,” Scott said. “It’s something that the Democrats are quite receptive to.”

He agreed it needs to be easier for families to make bad cops pay, but he and other Republicans say they worry about making officers fearful of doing their jobs.

“I think improving the victim’s family or the victim [ability] to go after the departments … is a way that we can make progress towards a bill that actually has the kind of impact that I think is helpful,” Scott said.

Hundreds of NYPD Officers wearing riot gear are seen on New York Times Square

Democrats in the Senate blocked Scott’s bill last year when Republicans were in charge, saying his version was simply too weak and lacking key steps in the House bill. But the farther Scott can move the House bill in his direction, the harder it will be to keep House Democrats on board to approve the changes.

Booker declined to confirm whether he agreed with Scott’s assessment, saying only that he was working hard with his GOP counterpart to get an agreement.

“There was an urgency last month, there’s been an urgency since I was a young black man, in my teens, getting pulled over by the police and scared for my life,” Booker said. “We definitely have to get something done, and I’m going to do everything I can to do that.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged earlier Wednesday to advance police reform measures.

“The Senate will continue that work as we strive to ensure that George Floyd’s tragic death will not be in vain,” Schumer said. “We will not rest until the Senate passes strong legislation to end the systemic bias in law enforcement.”

Source (Ny Daily news)

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