After two weeks of protests against police brutality and GOP pushback against police reforms, Republican senators, led by Sen. Tim Scott, have put together a draft legislation package to address racial discrimination in law enforcement.
Tapped by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Scott of South Carolina, who is the only black Republican senator, met with GOP lawmakers over lunch Tuesday to hash out the proposal.
“I just finished up a productive lunch discussion on a police reform and retraining package proposal,” he tweeted. “… I am hopeful that this legislation will bring much-needed solutions.”
In a draft of the proposal called the JUSTICE Act — short for Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere — the GOP call for 10 reforms, including mandatory reporting of uses of force that result in death or serious injury to create a Federal Bureau of Investigation data collection system and for states to provide data on the use of no-knock search warrants.
The lawmakers also propose the creation of two commissions: one to review the criminal justice system and one within the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to conduct a study on the conditions affecting black males.
In terms of grants, funds will be expanded for the Justice Department to hire law enforcement officers who reflect the diversity of the communities they cover, to increase the number of body-worn cameras and for de-escalation training.
It also calls for the creation of a police employment record preservation system, to add “conspiracy to commit a hate crime” to the criminal code and a reduction in grants for states who do not enforce punishments for failures to use body cameras.
“Congress can talk about race, share empathy & listen, but we’re also called to act,” tweeted Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who is on the task force. “Honored to work [with] Sen. Tim Scott & my colleagues to work toward finding real solutions to address racial reconciliation & improving relations [with] law enforcement & the communities they serve.”
The proposal comes a day after the Democrats, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, introduced their wide-ranging policing reform bill — the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 — that proposes reducing the standard for prosecuting police for misconduct, revising the “qualified immunity law” that shields officers from civil suits, creates a national misconduct database, limits the transfer of surplus military-grade weapons and prohibits “no-knock” warrants.
The White House’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, told reporters after it was unveiled that there are some “nonstarters in there” for President Donald Trump, specifically concerning reducing immunity.
McConnell told reporters following the lunch meeting with Scott and other GOP lawmakers on Tuesday that their proposal will be an “appropriate response” to the last two weeks of protests that have rocked the nation following the death of another black man by a white police officer.
Protesters have taken to the streets nationwide demanding justice for George Floyd who was killed late last month while in police custody and for police reforms. Protesters and some Democrats have even called for defunding the police, which McEnany said Trump is strongly against.
McConnell said it was important for the Republican Party to have a response to the protests, saying the United States is continuing to grapple with its “original sin” of slavery.
“We try to get better but every now and then it’s perfectly clear we’re a long way from the finish line and I think the best way for Senate Republicans to go forward on this is to listen to one of our own, who’s had these experiences, he’s had them since he’s been on the United States Senate,” he said, referring to Scott, “and with his guidance and leadership we’re going to come together with a proposal that we think makes the most sense for the federal government in the wake of what we’ve seen and experienced in the last couple of weeks.”
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a press conference, and on Twitter, on Tuesday called on McConnell to bring the Democrats’ bill to the Senate floor by July 4 for debate, accusing the Republicans of being “missing in action.”
“It’s far past time to act!” he said.
Copyright 2020 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.