The murder of Tire Nichols sparks renewed calls for police reform in Congress

Lawmakers return to the Capitol this week to face a fresh round of appeals for police reform after Memphis police fatally beat Tire Nichols. Five officers were fired and charged with murder after the video showed them repeatedly punching and kicking the 29-year-old while being held.

“We urge our colleagues in the House and Senate to jumpstart negotiations now and work with us to address the public health epidemic of police violence that is disproportionately affecting many of our communities,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford said in a statement statement on Sunday.

The Nevada Democrat also this week called for a meeting between the CBC and President Biden “to advance negotiations on much-needed national reforms of our justice system — particularly the actions and behavior of our law enforcement agencies.”

CBC Executive Director Vincent Edwards says Nichols’ parents have accepted an invitation from Horsford to be his guest at Mr Biden’s State of the Union address next month.

Police reform negotiations collapsed in 2021 after months of lengthy discussions between then-Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Democratic Whip and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin asked both senators to return to the table.

“I think[Booker]and Scott should get back together quickly to see if we can revive this effort,” Durbin said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

No meetings between the two are currently scheduled, but both lawmakers remain in touch, according to congressional sources.

“Senator Scott has worked on police funding and reform for most of the last decade,” a spokesman for Scott told CBS News. “He has never left the negotiating table and has encouraged his colleagues across the aisle to join him in his continued efforts to increase safety in our communities.”

In separate statements Friday, Scott said Nichols’ assassination should be a “call to action for every legislator,” while Booker said he would renew “legislative efforts to promote” reform.

According to a person familiar with his plans, Booker is expected to introduce police reform legislation in the next few weeks. The source said potential legislation was in the works before Nichols’ death and could include updated components of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, as well as a separate measure that could include parts of a compromise previously proposed to garner bipartisan support.

The talks broke down in September 2021 after Booker and Scott failed to reach an agreement at the suggestion of the Democrats to codify an executive order from the Trump administration that would have enacted reforms such as banning strangleholds and arrest warrants and improving federal data-gathering efforts.

Photo of Tire Nichols holding his son
Tire Nichols holds his son in an undated photo.

Ben Crump Law

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would limit qualified immunity for officers, prevent racial profiling and limit the use of excessive force. It passed the Democratic-controlled House twice, in 2020 and 2021, but its prospects remain uncertain as the GOP controls the majority in that chamber.

“I don’t know if there’s any legislation that can stop the evil that we’ve seen,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

Attorney Ben Crump, representing the Nichols and Floyd families, has urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. A Democratic adviser says the bill is unlikely to return to the House of Representatives this week.

Texas Rep. Jasmine Crockett called Nichols’ murder a “painful reminder of this country’s history.” The newly minted Democrat and civil rights attorney said legislative efforts may prove futile until Republicans are ready to start a conversation about police brutality.

“I don’t know if we’re getting anywhere, but I think it’s important that we make sure our constituents know that their pain is not being ignored by us and that we will keep fighting and keep pushing the limits.” Crockett to CBS News.