Both the verdict and outrage over the recent incidents have fueled the push for federal police accountability legislation. Both Democrats and Republicans said Sunday that they see hope for a compromise on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
California Democrat Karen Bass, who leads negotiations with Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, said Sunday that a major reform of the system will be to establish national standards for police behavior and the use of force.
“We have 18,000 police stations and no national standards, so some practices are legal in some areas and illegal in others,” Bass told ABCs This Week. She added that even if her legislation passes Congress, there will still be much work to be done at the local level to prevent these all-too-common police shootings: “We know officials are trained to shoot to kill, but maybe much more emphasis. ” could bet on de-escalation – why some incidents result in people being killed. Perhaps there were other ways to react than shoot. “
These are the questions about deadly violence that have been preoccupying Americans after last week’s police shootings. 911 audio re-released on Friday revealed that 32-year-old Isaiah Brown, who is black, was shot and killed early Wednesday by a deputy of a Virginia sheriff while speaking to a 911 dispatcher. An attorney for Brown’s family, David Haynes, said in a statement that Brown “was on 911 at the time of the shooting and the officer mistook a cordless home phone for a gun”.
The MP was on administrative leave while investigating the incident, but Virginia State Police told CNN Brown that he was unarmed. He has serious but not life threatening injuries.
The death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was chauvinized by a Columbus, Ohio police officer about 30 minutes before the conviction was pronounced, has sparked protests and further heated debate about officers might try to conflict de-escalate before they draw their guns. The body camera video of that shootout showed Bryant walking towards another young woman with a knife when she was shot. A new audio recording, posted to the archives of the Broadcastify website, captured the moments when Andrew Brown Jr. was shot dead Wednesday morning in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. First responders say he was shot in the back. Details of the incident were difficult to come by and seven MPs were on administrative leave after the shooting while attempting to serve Brown with an arrest warrant.
Brown’s death sparked protests as well as widespread calls for the public release of footage by officials, including those of Roy Cooper, a North Carolina Democrat. The area’s district attorney and Pasquotank district attorney said in a joint statement Thursday that the body camera footage cannot be released without a court order.
Taken together, the circumstances of the shootings highlight the complexities of the nation’s problems with police training, systemic racism, and the culture that this nation has cultivated, where police too often resort to lethal force. At the same time, protesters are demanding change, with some Republican-led states passing laws that would make protesters more vulnerable. For example, Republican governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed a bill last week granting immunity to drivers who accidentally injure or kill protesters while trying to flee a demonstration. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that six in ten Americans believe more should be done to hold police accountable for mistreatment of blacks, while 33% say the US is doing too much to itself to interfere in their work. However, there was a sharp party political divide in that finding: 85% of Democrats and 58% of Independents said the country should do more to hold officials accountable for their mistreatment of blacks, compared with just 31% of Republicans.
Partly because of this political polarization, there is still major disagreement between the two parties over how far Congress should go to punish police wrongdoing.
The recent shootings illustrate how the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will only address some aspects of the problem and not necessarily have prevented the violence that broke out last week. The bill has already been passed but has faced a more difficult path in the evenly divided Senate, with Democrats lacking the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Still, there is new evidence of optimism that Republican and Democratic lawmakers are serious about getting a deal. Bass hopes the two sides can create a framework by the end of May that will mark the year-long anniversary of Floyd’s murder. Scott launched a possible compromise to reform qualified immunity last week, arguing that law enforcement agencies could be held accountable even if individual officers are still shielded. The South Carolina Republican has said some Democrats he spoke to were open to his compromise and he doesn’t think Republicans are far apart on these issues.
South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday that he believes there is a way to compromise qualified immunity.
“We can solve the problems if there is the will to get there and I think both parties now have the will to get there,” Graham told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
But a number of progressive Democrats have expressed concern that Scott’s compromise on qualified immunity would not go far enough to bring cops to justice.
On Sunday, Missouri’s progressive freshman Rep. Cori Bush asked why police officers are entitled to a “safety net” – in the form of qualified immunity – when other professionals dealing with life or death situations do not have the same protection.
“The safety net shouldn’t be there,” Bush told CNN’s Abby Phillip to Inside Politics. “Where are all the special safeguards for nursing and other people in other positions who do very dangerous work?”
“We compromise so much. You know, we compromise, we die. We compromise, we die,” added Bush when asked about the compromise on qualified immunity, which Scott does not support. “I didn’t come to Congress to compromise what could keep us alive … If you don’t hurt people, if you don’t kill people, if you are just and fair in your work, then you need qualified immunity Nevertheless? “
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic Congress delegate for the US Virgin Islands, said in an interview with CNN’s Pamela Brown on Saturday night the passion for the ongoing drive to change qualified immunity.
“Qualified immunity has, in many cases, become the hood for bad cops to actually stand up as modern day members of the Ku Klux Klan against the black and brown people in this country. And it has to stop,” said Plaskett. “The most conservative members of the Supreme Court say that Congress needs to do something about qualified immunity. And we cannot shirk our responsibility to victims and Americans as a whole because we are afraid of the unions or topics of conversation or the rights that the blue has Wall used as a shield against American justice. “
Meanwhile, Scott said he opposed Democratic efforts to lower the legal standard for prosecuting individual officials. According to Bass, this is a key issue for Democrats pushing to amend federal law to ensure that police officers can be charged with “reckless” behavior rather than “willful” misconduct under current law – currently raising the bar in court .
The Biden administration is increasing its visibility on this matter
In his first address to a joint congressional session on Wednesday, Biden plans to advance the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, mark his first 100 days in office and determine his future priorities. Newly confirmed members of his Justice Department are also taking a more active role in this matter.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta met on Friday in person at the Justice Department and virtually with police chiefs from major cities and influential police leaders from across the country to discuss ideas for police reform to a spokesman for the Attorney General. Garland also announced last week that he was opening a federal civilian investigation into police practices in Minneapolis.
Although the Biden administration has mainly taken a hands-off approach to police accountability legislation, suggesting that Congress should take the lead, Americans will be looking for answers from the new president on Wednesday night as he puts these pointless ones Wants to stop murders.
When asked in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash whether she intended to be more personally involved in brokering a compromise, Vice President Kamala Harris implied that responsibility remained with Congress.
“We have clarified our position, each of us,” Harris said, referring to Biden and himself. “And as an administration we have clarified our position. But it is up to the Senate people to work together to resolve any disagreements the details of the legislation. “
“I think there is no question that the American people, in a bipartisan way, recognize and want there will be reform of the system,” added Harris.
Their comments reiterated that it is not yet clear how much political capital the White House is ready to bring Senate Republicans on board to reach a compromise – and create a real opportunity for substantial change.
This story was updated with additional details on Sunday.
Chandelis Duster and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report.