A police reform bill that passed in the House in March after George Floyd died in May 2020 has stalled amid negotiations about key issues like qualified immunity.
Democrats have demanded that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act reform qualified immunity, which prevents police officers from being held personally liable for constitutional violations. In the face of Republican resistance, negotiations have collapsed and ended without agreement, both parties said.
“We did the best we could,” the Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass told reporters on Wednesday, Sept. 22.
Lead Republican negotiator Tim Scott said he was disappointed Democrats walked away after parties reached an agreement on several other issues, including banning chokeholds, curbing the transfer of military equipment to police and increased funds for mental health programs that address problems that often lead to encounters with law enforcement officers.
“After months of making progress, I am deeply disappointed that Democrats have once again squandered a crucial opportunity to implement meaningful reform to make our neighborhoods safer and mend the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and communities of color,” he said in a statement.
“Crime will continue to increase while safety decreases, and more officers are going to walk away from the force because my negotiating partners walked away from the table.”
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said there were certain measures to be included in the bill that were non-negotiable.
‘We made it clear from the beginning of our negotiations that a bill must ensure true accountability, transparency and the policing standards necessary to bring an end to horrific incidents of violence Americans are routinely seeing – like the murder of George Floyd,’ he said.
Democrats expressed that the bill had been weakened so much by negotiations that it wouldn’t have made much of an impact.
Bass explained, ‘more was demanded to the point that there would be no progress made in the bill that we were left discussing.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement after negotiations ended, that he would consider “potential further executive actions” to address police reform.
“The murder of George Floyd is a stain on the soul of America,” the president said in a statement addressing the collapse of the negotiations. “It spurred the nation to collectively demand justice, and we will be remembered for how we responded to the call.”
The police-involved death of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others prompted the formation of the bill. Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who have represented several families of the killed by police violence, expressed disappointment about the failure of negotiators to reach an agreement.
“We can not let this be a tragic, lost opportunity to regain trust between citizens and police,” they said. They said the Senate should vote anyway on Democrats’ policing bill — which Republicans would be certain to defeat with a filibuster, or procedural delays, but would let voters “see who is looking out for their communities’ best interests.”