In George Floyd’s old neighborhood in Houston, a mural was designed to honor the former Third Ward resident (Photo Credit: Regal Media Group, LLC).
George Floyd Justice in Policing Act Beginning to Get Bipartisan Support
President Joe Biden pledged unity after he got elected, vowing to work with his Republican counterparts to bring the country together after the previous polarizing administration.
Although the House advanced police reform bills last month and right after the murder of George Floyd, their efforts did not gain enough support from the Senate.
But with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) making police reform a pertinent issue amongst key Republicans that unity that has so often eluded Washington politics might be back in a major way.
And the guilty verdicts handed down to Derek Chauvin, the ex-police officer who murdered Floyd, might play a significant role in whether legislation passes or not as some see the guilty verdict as an excuse people might use to say that the judicial system works as is.
Talking about the guilty verdicts, Vice President Kamala Harris said, “Today we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer and, the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system. This bill is part of George Floyd’s legacy.”
One of the main points that Republicans and Democrats could not agree on in 2020 was qualified immunity, which makes it difficult for citizens to sue police officers for misconduct.
In 2020, Sen. Scott called the House’s bill to get rid of qualified immunity, a “poison pill.”
Now the Black Republican Senator from South Carolina says he feels optimistic that a compromise can be reached.
Scott said, “There is a way to put more of the onus or the burden on the department or on the employer and not the employee.”
He went on to say that Democrats like Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) seem open to the idea about people being able to sue police departments for officer misconduct instead of suing the officers who might not be able to afford the financial burden of a major police misconduct lawsuit.
Vox.com reported that, “Effectively, this suggestion would mean that police departments, rather than individual officers, would have to deal with potential lawsuits over misconduct. The thinking behind it is that it would still pressure police to be more accountable, while reducing some of the potential risks an individual officer would face.”
While Rep. Bass would not discuss her discussions with Scott and other top Republicans, she did say, “We need the individual officers and the agencies to be accountable. Because I think if the agencies, the cities, if they’re concerned about the lawsuits, they will not want to have problem officers.”
Along with Scott, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has led discussions about police reform in the Senate, while Bass has spearheaded negotiations in the House.
Vox.com reported, “Whether these conversations can lead to a deal that gets 60 votes in the Senate—the threshold the bill will need to hit if it gets filibustered—remains to be seen. Even as Senate Democrats, as well as President Joe Biden, pushed for the Justice in Policing Act following the Chauvin verdict, multiple Republicans who spoke with Vox noted that they were interested in starting with a narrower measure that focused on training and data collection, similar to what Scott had proposed last year in the Justice Act.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said, “I’m not going to support getting rid of qualified immunity for our law enforcement officials. It will devastate every law enforcement agency in our country.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the House act that recently passed again.
However, the Justice Act is the Republican Senate bill.
The Justice Act failed in the Senate last year after Democrats blocked the bill.
But there is hope now that both sides can reach a compromise in the wake of Derek Chauvin’s three guilty verdicts for the murder of Floyd.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “Just about anything coming out of the House is likely to be partisan and extreme.”
However, Sen. Cruz admitted that he had not yet looked at the House bill that recently passed.
Democrats have also criticized the GOP’s police reform plans.
Sen. Booker said, “The Republican proposal is heavy on gestures and light on real reform. If we’re serious about ending police brutality and changing the culture of law enforcement, this bill is not the solution.”
Vox.com reported, “The proposals overlap some, though Republicans’ is much narrower: Both would ramp up the use of body cameras, make lynching a federal crime, and incentivize state and local police departments to ban the use of chokeholds. But the GOP bill doesn’t touch qualified immunity or other legal protections police have.”
But Scott’s plan for qualified immunity might finally get the deal done and bring about the unity that President Biden promised in the first days of his presidency.
“That may be a reasonable idea for compromise,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). “That’s an interesting approach. It just shows Tim Scott really does want to make progress on police reform.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said that Scott’s proposal to make police departments pay out legal settlements instead of individual officers is “worth considering, but it’s going to depend on exactly how it’s done.”
On the day that Chauvin received his guilty verdicts, Mah’Kia Bryant, 16, lost her life after she chased a female with a knife and a Columbus, Ohio police officer fatally shot her four times.
“At some point, our nation needs to make a decision about how many more instances of police brutality do we need to witness before we do something about it,” said Bass.