Clyburn: Qualified immunity does not need to be part of police reform bill

“If we don’t get qualified immunity now, then we will come back and try to get it later. But I don’t want to see us throw out a good bill because we can’t get a perfect bill," House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) says that he would compromise on police reform legislation that did not end qualified immunity—the legal doctrine that protects government officials, in this case, police officers, from civil lawsuits. 

“I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect. I just won’t do that. I know what the perfect bill will be. We have proposed that. I want to see good legislation. And I know that, sometimes, you have to compromise,” said Clyburn on Sunday’s episode of CNN’s State of the Union. 

James Clyburn
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

“If we don’t get qualified immunity now, then we will come back and try to get it later. But I don’t want to see us throw out a good bill because we can’t get a perfect bill.” 

Clyburn’s comments come as Democrat and Republican senators are currently reviewing The George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, which passed the House in March but has stalled in the Senate. The House version of the bill includes limits to qualified immunity for police officers, a national database to track officer misconduct, bans chokeholds, and relaxes the legal standard for officer misconduct convictions. President Joe Biden has implored the Senate to pass the bill by May 25–the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd

Read More: Echoing Maxine Waters, Jim Clyburn says Americans must ‘confront injustice’

During the discussion with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Clyburn went on to highlight other provisions besides qualified immunity that were essential in his view, such as police recruitment. 

“We have got to do a better job of recruiting police officers. We have got to get good people. No matter how good the training, if you don’t have good people, the training does no good,” said Clyburn. “Now, the problem we have got now is that there are some bad apples in policing…We know it’s still there. We have got to root out the bad apples, and let’s go forward with a good, solid program.”

Read More: Rep. Cori Bush says America is ‘racist AF,’ backs defunding St. Louis police

This is not the first time that the Democratic representative from South Carolina has cemented a moderate position on police reform. In June 2020, during the surge of racial justice protests, Clyburn said that he does not support defunding the police and that instead, “we can restructure the police forces. Restructure, re-imagine policing. That is what we are going to do.”

Last month, in response to Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) argument that American policing cannot be reformed and is “inherently and intentionally racist,” Clyburn expressed similar views as he did on Sunday about recruitment. 

“This is not about policing. This is not about training. This is about recruiting. Who are we recruiting to be police officers? That to me is where the focus has got to go. We’ve got to have police officers,” said Clyburn.

Activist Tamika Mallory and others have swiftly opposed Clyburn’s position.

@whipclyburn we won’t allow you of all people to water down the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act. @coribush @ilhanmn @aoc @jamaalbowmanny @joycebeattyoh this CAN NOT happen,” Mallory wrote in an Instagram post. “We are prepared to literally put our bodies on the line. We need to activate ASAP!” 

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