U.S. Republicans unveil police reform bill focusing on transparency
WASHINGTON, DC, USA – US Senate Republicans unveiled a police reform proposal Wednesday, June 17, that would discourage but not ban tactics like choke holds, provide for more de-escalation training and require disclosure about officers' use of force.
The legislation, which Republican Senate leaders said would be voted on next week, contrasts with a more sweeping measure introduced by House Democrats earlier this month as the United States faces a reckoning over police brutality. (READ: U.S. police in hot seat after years of near impunity)
The dueling plans are responses to protests against racial injustice and police violence which swept the nation following the May 25 killing of African American George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer. (READ: Floyd's brother tells U.N. 'black lives do not matter' in U.S.)
"The George Floyd incident certainly accelerated this conversation," Republican Senator Tim Scott told reporters.
The proposal would establish a commission that would launch a comprehensive review of police tactics.
It would also require local departments to report all officer-involved deaths to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and require the funneling of key data into a national database aimed at weeding out bad cops.
"We're serious about making a law here," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "This is not about trying to create partisan differences. This is about coming together and getting an outcome."
Instead of direct mandates, the Republican measure would incentivize change by denying federal grants to police departments that do not end the tactics of choke holds or no-knock warrants.
"That, frankly, is by default a ban on choke holds," said Scott, the bill's chief sponsor and the chamber's only black Republican.
But the bill does not end or limit qualified immunity, the controversial doctrine that protects officers from being sued for misconduct.
Scott said such inclusion in final legislation would be a "poison pill" for him but he would be willing to discuss other options.
Republicans and Democrats agree on roughly 70% of their reform priorities, according to Scott.
The Democratic bill would restrict qualified immunity and ban choke holds and no-knock warrants, which have been blamed in several cases of deadly force by police.
Both parties appear eager to get a bill to President Donald Trump's desk before the July 4 recess.
Civil liberties group ACLU criticized the Republican proposal, saying "it does not respond to the moment."
Americans "need bold, visionary legislation that divests from police and shrinks their footprint, and reinvests in the Black and Brown communities that have been harmed by status quo policing," the organization said on Twitter. – Rappler.com