The conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has increased pressure on Congress to pass police reform legislation but talks remain stalled with no bipartisan agreement in sight, Politico reports.
Chauvin was convicted on all counts Tuesday, prompting calls to action from Senate members.
“It’s pretty awful to have the nation’s eyes on a courtroom. It’s up to us to try to stop this from happening as frequently as it does,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told Politico.
“The judicial system worked. But a man is dead,” said Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. “So that’s a very high price to pay. And avoiding more circumstances like this, more events like this, is still a huge priority."
The House has passed multiple police reform bills but they were quickly shot down in the Senate. South Carolina Republican Tim Scott introduced a bill last year after George Floyd’s killing that would have encouraged departments to end the use of chokeholds, make lynching a crime, and increase disclosure requirements for police but the legislation was filibustered by Democrats, who argued the bill was well short of necessary reforms.
No ongoing negotiations:
Negotiations have completely stalled between the two parties since Scott’s proposal was torpedoed. A key split between the parties is the Democrats' demand to end qualified immunity, which protects police officers from lawsuits.
California Rep. Karen Bass, who is leading the police reform efforts in the House, said it was “extremely important” to include elimination of qualified immunity in any reform bill.
“If you don't like qualified immunity, then tell me what we can do to hold police officers accountable,” she said. “They have to feel that there are consequences to what they do.”
Bass said he hoped to have a bill ready by the end of May but acknowledged there were “no formal negotiations” yet.
Eliminating qualified immunity is a “red line for many Republicans,” Politico reported.
GOP pushing back on reform:
Some Republicans pushed back on the idea of police reform entirely.
Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville warned against the Senate trying “do something [just] to be doing it."
Indiana Sen. Mike Braun said he is “not sure” that any police reform measure would go far in the Senate.
Some on the left have been critical of the proposed reforms as well. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the House bill was “important” but “not good enough.”
The pressure stemming from the Chauvin trial may give Congress a much-needed shove.
“The public has paid so much attention to this. And I don’t know how Republicans are going to think about this … but there’s more impetus on our part,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown told Politico. “People saw so much about this and saw what good cops do and what bad cops do, knowing most are good cops.”
“The reason that so many people took to the street is because they could see that [double standard] and they were demanding change,” added Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith. “So the question here is: Will those demands be heard here in the Capitol? And I’ve got to be optimistic that they will be.”