Police reform legislation has ‘more momentum’ post Chauvin verdict

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus walk to make a make a statement on the verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AP

One of the co-sponsors of the House police reform bill said Tuesday that the police reform bill passed earlier this year that stalled in the Senate has “absolutely more momentum” after Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. And a key Republican senator said Tuesday that police reform is a “is a topic ripe for discussion.”

The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases and reforms qualified immunity, making it easier to pursue claims against police officers in civil court, in March. But it hasn’t moved in the Senate since then.

Congresswoman Karen Bass, the co-sponsor of the measure, has been participating in ongoing informal conversations with some Senate Republicans, including Tim Scott of South Carolina, who unveiled his own police reform legislation in June 2020. Bass is hopeful that the Senate will vote and pass the bill — and she’d like to see that happen by the anniversary of Floyd’s death.

“This is a very positive catalyst,” Bass said about the guilty verdict. “We picked up the momentum right after it passed on March, discussions started again,” Bass said.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act looks to end racial and religious profiling, bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants, requires deadly force be used only as a last resort after officers have employed de-escalation techniques first, limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to law enforcement agencies and would make it easier to hold officers accountable in court by limiting so-called qualified immunity.

The bill passed the House on in a party line vote and had been stalled in the Senate. Ahead of Tuesday’s verdict, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’d “like to take up” Scott’s proposal from last year.

“Tim Scott’s proposal last year, I’d like to take that back up and see if we can get some compromise or start with a Democratic version of it,” he said.

Scott’s proposal is more modest than the one put forward by Democrats. The bill would require increased reporting of use of force by police officers and no-knock warrants. It would also provide grants for law enforcement to be equipped with body cameras and require departments to maintain and share officer disciplinary records.

The legislation focused heavily on police training, requiring the Justice Department to develop and provide guidelines for deescalating police encounters. It also would establish several commissions, including one studying the conditions affecting Black men and boys and one reviewing best practices for police departments.

Scott said Tuesday after the verdict was reached that they have been working on police reform legislation and they will “continue to work on it.”

“I think we’re in a position now to move it forward and I think I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll find a path forward,” Scott said.

Scott told reporters he has been talking to Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey about finding a path forward—to pass the Senate it would need the votes of at least 10 Republicans.

“I think we’re making progress on the entire bill,” Scott said. “I’m hoping sooner than later.”


Jack Turman contributed reporting.

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