President Joe Biden is hosting the family of George Floyd on Tuesday one year after his murder. The president is remaining hopeful police reform will be passed on Capitol Hill despite missing the deadline set by the White House to get a package to the resolute desk.
Originally, Democratic leaders on the Hill thought the George Floyd Justice Policing Act would be signed into law by May 24, 2021. To their dismay, that did not happen as negotiations continued to gain Republican support for the bill.
One question appears to linger on the minds of many members of the public — what is the sticking point in the passage of policing reform?
Various congressional leaders who spoke with theGrio had previously said they couldn’t pinpoint the stall in the negotiations, however, a high-ranking Democrat — who asked to remain anonymous as Democrats and Republicans on the Hill continue to negotiate the bill — tells theGrio that what is holding up the police reform act in George Floyd’s honor is Republicans seeking buy-in from police organizations before making any concessions.
Any opposition from law enforcement organizations “is a real obstacle to moving forward” for Republican members of Congress, said the Democratic source.
“It’s going to be very important in the next couple of days as the negotiations proceed that some of the national law enforcement agencies cease their opposition and begin to work with the House and the Senate to move this legislation forward,” the source tells theGrio.
However, according to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), progress is still underway. One step forward he highlighted is aimed at “stopping militarized law enforcement.”
Congressman Johnson said that part involves, “shutting down the pipeline between DOD [Department of Defense] and law enforcement agencies with surplus equipment. Federal, State, and local agencies are under this agreement.”
Johnson stressed that the George Floyd policing act centers around some crucial issues such as “eliminat[ing] qualified immunity as a legal protection for rogue police officers.”
“The core of the act allows for accountability for police officers who violated the civil rights of citizens in civil and criminal proceedings. It lessens the standard of proof necessary to convict police officers for a criminal act of violating a person’s civil rights,” Johnson added.
In the policing act, qualified immunity would adjust the standard of proof in the criminal law, having to do with the prosecution of civil rights cases against police officers.
Qualified immunity has been a sticking point between Democrats and Republicans. By phone late Monday afternoon, Democratic House Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn said he is “against qualified immunity as Republican Senator Tim Scott is for it.”
Sen. Scott (R-SC) has been negotiating on behalf of Republicans for the passage of the bill.
Also included in this historic policing reform bill is a call to ban chokeholds, eliminate no-knock warrants, create a registry and database on officers who commit crimes and the collection of use of force statistics.
The anonymous high-ranking Democrat on the Hill says someone from the Republican Party should “have enough courage” to “explain that this bill is civil rights for all Americans.”
“It doesn’t say this bill relates to one population versus another … it relates to the overall standards that law enforcement must support to police America … to provide the mandate that they have, which is to protect and serve,” the source added.
The stakes are high for the legislation’s success. If passed and signed into law, this bill would be the first step toward redressing a system that has cost many Black lives.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a 2017 Ohio case involving the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Luke Stewart whose mother wanted to hold local municipalities liable for civil rights violations. The officer who shot Stewart at close range in the neck and chest has not been found liable in the case. The victim was sleeping in his car when police entered the vehicle and the victim began to drive away. That is when he was fatally shot by a Euclid, Ohio police officer.
Congressman Johnson contends this case is “a clear example” how qualified immunity serves as a barrier to justice.
Even with the Supreme Court decision Monday there is hope the tide is turning on police reform with the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who used deadly force with the knee on the neck of George Floyd.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump told theGrio exclusively, “the question for me, April, really is after we saw the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin and the fall of the blue wall of silence, will this be the new precedent as it relates to policing in America and interactions with people of color?”
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