Police reform: Video of Nichols beating reignites calls for change

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New York to San Francisco. Baltimore to Portland. Boston to Los Angeles, and countless cities in between.

Protesters took to the streets again over the weekend to condemn police brutality after the release of a video that captured the violent beating by a Memphis police officer that left 29-year-old Tire Nichols dead.

On Sunday morning, Nichols’ family attorney recorded the outrage as he sent a simple but poignant message to Washington.

“Shame on us if we don’t use [Nichols’] Tragic death finally allowed George Floyd’s policing justice bill to pass,” Ben Crump said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

President Joe Biden referred to the failed legislation in his Friday statement about Nichols, and many leaders — from the Senate and House Judiciary Committee chairmen, Democratic senators. Republican Rep. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Jim Jordan of Ohio – Acknowledging the potential role of federal legislation.

The Congressional Black Caucus has called for a meeting with Biden this week to advance negotiations. “We call on our colleagues in the House and Senate to immediately initiate negotiations and work with us to address a public health epidemic where police violence disproportionately affects many of our communities,” said Nevada Democrat and CBC Chairman Steven Horsford. Horsford wrote in a statement. statement on Sunday.

Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee NAACP, called on Congress to step up during a Sunday night news conference in Memphis. “By failing to create and pass bills to stop police brutality, you are writing another black obituary. The blood of black America is on your hands. So stand up and do something.”

But with Congress as divided as ever, public anger once again appeared to be colliding with partisanship in Washington.

Here’s what you need to know about the George Floyd Police Justice Act, why it failed, and how likely it is in the current political climate.

The legislation, originally introduced in 2020 and reintroduced in 2021, would create a national registry of police misconduct to stop officers from avoiding consequences for their actions by moving to another jurisdiction.

It would ban racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels and would overhaul qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that critics say protects law enforcement from accountability.

The measure would also allow “individuals to recover damages in civil courts when law enforcement officials violate their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity from law enforcement,” according to a then-legislative fact sheet.

The fact sheet also states that the legislation will “save lives by banning chokeholds and knock orders” and will enforce “the use of deadly force only as a last resort”.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House twice in 2020 and 2021, mostly along party lines. But it never made any headway in the Senate, even after Democrats won control in 2021, in part because of disagreements over qualified immunity, which protects police officers from being sued in civil court.

Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Senator. Tim Scott of South Carolina has spent about six months trying to reach a deal that could win 60 votes in the Senate, but negotiations have been stalled by a number of complex issues.

“It’s clear at this table, at this moment, that we’re not making progress,” Booker told reporters in the spring of 2021. It. Our ongoing negotiations have come to a halt. But the work will continue. ”

With legislation deadlocked, Biden signed a more limited executive order to overhaul policing on the second anniversary of Floyd’s death. It took several actions that could apply to federal officials, including efforts to ban chokeholds, expand use of body cameras and limit no-knock orders, among others.

But the president cannot compel local law enforcement to take steps on his orders; the executive action lists levers the federal government can use, such as federal grants and technical assistance, to incentivize local law enforcement to get involved

Since then, little has happened on the federal legislative front.

The reality is this: The path to police reform will only get more challenging in the new Congress, as House Republicans, who hold the majority, have put their priorities elsewhere.

Senate Democrats gained one more seat in last year’s midterm elections to solidify their majority, but they are still far from the 60 votes needed to succeed. That means any policing reform that can build meaningful support in Congress could be denied the kind of measures protesters are calling for.

State officials have been launching investigations into local police departments, recognizing that the federal government cannot handle all cases nationwide.

And, in some cases, local governments have taken steps of their own. In the year since Floyd’s killing, at least 25 states have considered some form of qualified immunity reform. 2021, State of California. Democrat Gavin Newsom signed into law a raft of police reforms that create a system that can disqualify law enforcement officers found to have engaged in serious misconduct — joining the majority of those with similar disqualifications. The state ranks of the qualifying agency.

However, for many people, this is not enough. Read this CNN opinion piece from retired police captain Sonia Pruitt of Montgomery County, Maryland:

“Many noted that the police attack on Nichols was reminiscent of the attack on Rodney King, a black man who was beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991 and was captured on video. But Nichols’ beating was actually far worse, as it showed that after nearly 32 years, the needle on police reform has barely been moved and seemingly minor traffic violations continue to drive blacks and other minorities Men and women die in police encounters.”

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