Politicians Have Weaponized Police Reform

July 2, 2020 Updated: July 2, 2020

Commentary

For decades, black Americans have wanted a criminal justice reform package to address what are widely viewed as systemic issues related to law enforcement activities throughout the country. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats threw sand in the gears of their Republican colleagues’ bid to pass a criminal justice reform bill.

After all, Democrats still have to endure the sting of the First Step Act—a bill that will free thousands of black people from federal prisons—being signed into law by a Republican president, whom they’ve all but sworn to destroy. They’re in no rush to give conservatives another policy win on an issue that could swing more black support to the right side of the aisle during an election year.

The day after Senate Democrats blocked the GOP version of the bill, House Democrats passed their own criminal justice bill. While it’s not unusual for different chambers of congress to target an issue with their own legislation, it’s troubling to see such a gross lack of cooperation on an issue that has quite literally resulted in parts of our country being burned to the ground.

Shortly after the Senate version of the bill was stalled, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor warning of a “much deeper issue” the nation must confront.

“Today, we lost, I lost, a vote on a piece of legislation that would have led to systemic change in the relationship between the communities of color and the law enforcement community,” he said. “We would have broken this concept in this nation that somehow, someway you have to either be for law enforcement or for communities of color. That is a false binary choice; it’s just not true.”

The House and Senate bills were crafted in response to a video that showed the egregious killing of George Floyd, who died after a police officer sat with his knee on Floyd’s neck while the man had already been subdued and restrained by two other officers.

“This legislation spoke to the important issues that have brought us here today,” Scott said. “We wouldn’t be here if it were not, as Senator Perdue alluded to, the death of yet another African American man, George Floyd. His murder is why the country has given us the opportunity to lead, to lead. And my friends on the other side just said no. Not no to the legislation, they just said no.”

The key provisions in the Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act included:

  • Removing qualified immunity protections for police.
  • Incentivizing independent criminal investigations after a law enforcement officer’s use of deadly force.
  • Creating a national database to track use of force incidents, traffic violation stops, pedestrian stops and frisk and body searches. That data would also be able to be filtered by race, ethnicity and gender.
  • Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry.
  • Re-examining use of force standards throughout the country.
  • Development of new training on racial bias.
  • Making lynching a federal crime.
  • Closing a loophole to ban officers from sexually abusing individuals they arrest.

The Republicans’ version of the bill, called the JUSTICE Act, included:

  • Discouraging chokeholds by withholding federal grants from law enforcement agencies that continue to allow the practice.
  • Requiring the reporting of all use of force incidents to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the creation of a national database to track police shootings.
  • Creating a national database to track police misconduct, which would require law enforcement agencies to maintain employment and disciplinary records of officers for 30 years and to review them as part of any hiring process.
  • Tracking the intent and effectiveness of no knock warrants.
  • Making lynching a federal crime.
  • Increased penalties for false police reports.
  • Training on de-escalation, alternates to use of force and behavioral health crises. The bill also called for training officers to intervene if they see a colleague abusing use of force.
  • Commissioning a study on the social status of black men and boys.
  • Reviewing hiring policies to better ensure the demographic makeup of a law enforcement agency is close to the demographic makeup of the community it serves.
  • Closing a loophole to ban officers from sexually abusing individuals they arrest.
  • Creating a training program on the history of racism in the United States.

When reading the bills side by side, they are hardly dissimilar, and the GOP version of the legislation goes further in addressing issues that are of paramount concern to the communities who have long wanted this type of legislation. To resolve the minor differences between the two, as Sen. Scott said, the GOP offered Democrats as many as 20 amendments—and Democrats simply refused.

“When Speaker Pelosi says one of the most heinous things I can imagine, that the Republicans are actually trying to cover up murder—the murder of George Floyd—with our legislation, that’s not politics,” Scott said.

“You see, what’s become evident to me is that she knows something that we all know. She knows that she can say that because the Democrats have a monopoly on the black vote. And no matter the return on their loyalty—and I’m telling you, the most loyal part of the Democrat construct are black communities—and no matter the loyalty of the people, the return they get will always continue to go down, because in monopolies you start devaluing your customer.

“You see, today we could have given at the very minimum 70 percent of what they say would be important for the people we say we serve. But instead of having a debate on that today and getting not five amendments but 20 amendments, … instead of going forward and getting what you want now, they’ve decided to punt this ball until the election … because they believe that the polls reflect a 15 point deficit on our side; therefore, they can get the bill they want in November. All they have to do is win the election and then roll in January and they get a chance to write the police reform bill without our support at all.”

The filthy beltway politics Sen. Scott describes is a feature of our current political system, not a bug. As the unnecessary stall on this criminal justice reform legislation reminds us, the Washington, D.C. swamp is a nasty place where a bill that the public has sought for decades can get shelved, all because some of the politicians we elect would rather gamble with our lives than improve them.

Adrian Norman is a writer, political commentator and author of the book “The Art of the Steal: Exposing Fraud & Vulnerabilities in America’s Elections.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.