Jeffries says action for Congress to enact police reform ‘will resume at some point’

Following the latest development in the case against officers charged in the beating death of Tyre Nichols, the House minority leader expressed optimism about jumpstarting stalled legislation.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries believes there is “an urgent need” to move police reform legislation “forward” following recent developments in the Tyre Nichols case.

During Jeffries’ weekly press conference on Friday, the congressman told theGrio, “In the previous two Congresses, House Democrats have led the effort to try to get comprehensive police reform measures enacted into law.”

Tyre Nichols,
This photo provided by the Nichols family shows Tyre Nichols, who had a passion for photography and was described by friends as joyful and lovable. Skaters from all over gathered Sunday at Paine’s Park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art to hold a vigil in memory of Nichols and form bonds with one another. Five Memphis police officers have since been charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. (Photo: Courtesy of the Nichols family via AP)

In recent years, House Democrats have introduced legislation to combat police brutality; however, it has failed to pass due to a lack of support from Congressional members on both sides of the political aisle.

In 2023, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., reintroduced the People’s Response Act, which aimed to provide local communities, particularly Black communities, with alternative resources to policing when responding to broad public health issues.

In 2021, House Democrats re-introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act named after George Floyd, who was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. 

The act aimed to overhaul qualified immunity, ban no-knock warrants, and prohibit racial profiling; however, the bill faced opposition in the Senate.

Jeffries told theGrio, “We’ve got to strike the right balance between public safety, strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the community, and avoiding to the greatest extent possible and eliminating police brutality in America.”

The House minority leader’s remarks come a day after former Memphis police officer Desmond Mills Jr. pleaded guilty to state and federal charges in the death of Tyre Nichols. 

Mills entered a plea agreement; in exchange for pleading guilty, prosecutors will recommend a 15-year sentence for his involvement in the 29-year-old’s beating death.

Mills is one of five former Memphis police officers caught on camera kicking, punching, and beating Nichols during a traffic stop on Jan. 7. A few days later, Nichols succumbed to his injuries.

“This is what accountability looks like,” the NAACP said in a statement on X. “Now, it’s time for Congress to step up and enact the federal reforms necessary to prevent the continuous trauma inflicted on the Black community.”

Following Nichols’ death, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.Y., issued a statement that read, “In recent years I’ve worked with families, civil rights leaders, local mayors, activists, law enforcement leaders…who all share the same understanding that we can raise the levels of transparency, accountability, and professionalism in American policing.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries,
US House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 29, 2023. The US government began on September 28 informing workers of an impending shutdown that could see millions of federal employees and military personnel temporarily sent home or working without pay, unless Congress reaches a funding deal. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Booker, who served as a lead negotiator in an unsuccessful bipartisan effort to pass the Floyd bill, said Congress “can do better, we must do better.” 

The senator added, “This moment demands again that we muster the collective political will to act.”

In a previous interview with Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., he told theGrio that he believes Congress can do more to combat police brutality.

“We had a whole range of reforms that came up in the summer of 2020 that were pushed by the Congressional Black Caucus, and they made it to the House,” said Raskin, “but then it hit a brick wall in the Senate.”

“We should go back to all of those reforms,” he continued.

Jeffries told theGrio that his Republican counterparts have made it challenging to push forward police reform. However, he remains hopeful.

“We are under no illusions as it relates to the unwillingness of extreme Republicans in the House to do anything to strengthen the relationships between the police and communities of color throughout America,” said the Democratic leader.

“It is my hope that the conversations that were bipartisan in nature earlier in the Congress, in the Senate, will resume at some point led by Cory Booker.”

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