Congressman Maxwell Frost says American policing is rooted in white supremacy

The youngest member of Congress decries the deadly Memphis police beating of Tyre Nichols in an interview with theGrio.

In a recent interview with theGrio, U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) decried the deadly Memphis police beating of Tyre Nichols, saying the ultimately fatal Jan. 7 encounter — regardless of the charged officers’ being Black — underscores a police culture that is rooted in white supremacy.

“The fact that the five officers were Black does not strip away the other fact that white supremacy and anti-Black sentiments … were the building blocks for a lot of policing in this country,” said the 26-year-old newcomer to Capitol Hill. 

Frost, who just made earlier this year as the youngest and first Gen Z person to enter Congress, made the issue of police bias and brutality a pillar in his 2022 campaign. The Florida legislator participated in mass protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers in 2020.

Democratic Representative Maxwell Frost of Florida in a blue shirt and navy jacket
Rep. Maxwell Frost speaks with reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington. In an interview with theGrio, the Florida Democrat decried the deadly Memphis police beating of Tyre Nichols, saying the incident underscores a police culture rooted in white supremacy. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“It was very triggering for me from my own experiences with negative interactions with law enforcement during the Black Lives Matter uprisings,” Frost told theGrio. “So seeing Brother George Floyd lynched in broad daylight on video, and here we have another scenario just like that … it really brought me back.”

The killing of Nichols has reignited efforts in Washington to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would tighten laws related to accountability for abusive members of law enforcement, restrict certain police practices and expand national data collection. On Thursday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House to discuss a path forward.

Frost is less confident Democrats can achieve police reform in the next two years of the 118th Congress, due to resistance from Republicans, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives and can block the legislation using the filibuster in the Senate. Ultimately, he sees the position of Republicans as too far to the political right.

“When you even bring up the conversation of body cameras, which is not considered a radical thing, there are still Republicans in Congress who disagree with stuff like that,” said Frost. “The Republican Party has been calling the ref on every issue for generations. What does that mean? It means they’ve been dragging what’s considered the middle more and more to the right.”

Still, the young leader said that doesn’t mean Democrats shouldn’t still fight for federal legislation to root out bad policing.

“I believe we’re going to build a more equitable society,” said Frost, “because I refuse to give up the world that I believe we deserve. I think it’s within reach, but it’s going to take time.”

Democratic Representative Maxwell Frost of Florida in a light blue jacket and white shirt holding a microphone
Rep. Maxwell Frost speaks on a panel at the office of the Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund on Jan. 10, 2023 in Washington. Talking to theGrio recently, Frost urged action from voters to put an end to police violence. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A movement from voters in the United States has to take form in order to put an end to police violence, says the freshman congressman. “We need to elect more folks to Congress who understand what that means for our communities,” Frost said.

Being the youngest member of Congress, the lawmaker admits, “I don’t claim to have all the answers.” 

“I’m willing to sit down and figure it out,” he shared. “There are folks who have been doing this work for generations, and I think it’s important that we come to the table and talk about it.”

Frost told theGrio it’s also important for those closest to pain to be empowered to have a say in the changes they’d like to see related to overall public safety in their neighborhoods.

“Violence starts in the community. It’s going to end in the community, and the government should be funding that work,” he said.

While the bodycam footage of Nichols’ lethal assault by Memphis officers may have triggered revived talks of widespread police reform and responsible public safety, Frost said he also wants to make sure this doesn’t “go away” as just a moment in the news cycle. 

“We got to stay with a joyful resistance,” he said. “I know it’s hard when there’s death. I know it’s hard when our people are being beaten to death by the folks meant to protect us. But we can’t give up on this fight.”

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