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The release of video footage from Memphis, Tennessee of police brutally beating Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old black father and FedEx employee, has reignited calls for Congress to reconsider police reform. But in an era of divided government, the odds of a law making it onto President Biden’s desk remain slim.
Nichols died in a hospital three days after being pulled over for reckless driving. Five officers who punched Nichols have been charged and jailed on charges including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official suppression. Other officers were also relieved of duty pending an investigation.
Plans are underway for Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford to meet with Biden on police reform. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.
The Nevada Democrat told NPR he wanted to know “what else we can do from an executive standpoint,” adding that he believes Biden can be a key player in the negotiations.
“I believe the president has the ability to bring us together in a unique way,” Horsford said, citing Biden’s role in passing gun safety legislation and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. “We expect the President to help us build a bipartisan consensus on full police accountability and judicial reform.”
Horsford said he wanted Biden to address the issue in the upcoming State of the Union to “put center stage on this issue and the pain that families are experiencing, not least the Nichols family, but people who are going through this pain of virtually everyone.” single experienced day somewhere in America.”
Horsford has invited the Nichols family to attend the address.
Horsford added: “Congress has a role to play and anyone who says they don’t is shirking their responsibility to protect our community. You can’t get up in a minute and say you’re pro-safety and do nothing to keep our community safe from bad police.”
But passing legislation in both chambers is an uphill battle.
Police reform negotiations broke down in 2021 after months of bipartisan deliberations between then-Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Sens. Cory Booker, DN.J., and Tim Scott, RS.C.
Despite previous deadlocks on the issue, Horsford said he remains “hopeful” that progress can be made at the legislative level.
“We’re working to find ways to negotiate the principles of judicial and police reform that make sense,” he said, noting that he reached out to Scott, a key player in previous negotiations. “We’re looking at ways to address the patterns and practices of cities like Memphis that have acts of God against Black residents.”
“It’s a wrong decision for people to say we cannot both support law enforcement and hold them accountable to serve the communities they are sworn to do so in a way that keeps people safe.” “, he said.
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Call for bringing back the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
Attorney Ben Crump, representing the Nichols family, has also urged Congress to resume negotiations.
“Shame on us if we don’t use it [Nichols’] tragic death to finally pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” Crump said on CNN state of the nation.
This bill, passed in the House of Representatives in March 2021 but met with strong Republican opposition in the Senate, aimed to ban strangleholds and warrants in certain cases, mandate data collection at police encounters, and change qualified immunity for law enforcement.
Sen. Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told ABC In this week that he would like Booker and Scott to “revive that effort”.
“It contained many important elements: banning chokeholds, dealing with warrantless searches, dealing with police agency accreditation. It is necessary that we do all of these things, but not enough,” said the Illinois Democrat.
In a speech in the Senate on Monday evening, Scott criticized Durbin’s comments.
“Senator Durbin asked Sen. Booker and I to come back to the table and start talking about policing in America,” he said. “I never left the table.”
Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, has criticized Democrats for previously blocking consideration of his 2020 police reform measure.
“Imagine my disappointment,” Scott said, “when the duty to intervene, de-escalation training, more resources, more reporting so we have all eyes across the country, was thwarted in this chamber.”
“We should have simple laws that we can agree on,” he added. “But too often too many are too concerned about who gets the credit. I know when a conservative Republican starts talking about policing in America, some people just seem to switch channels. That’s wrong.”
But even if a new version of the police reform bill were to be approved by the Senate, it would then have to pass through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“I don’t know if there is any law that can stop the evil that we have seen,” he said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on NBC’s Meet the press.
“There are things we can do. I think there are all kinds of grants that could be given out. There are reforms that can take place there,” he said. “But I think it’s just a difference in philosophy. Democrats always think it’s some new law that’s going to fix something this terrible.”