Senate Republicans uncover police reform bill that breaks Democrats on key issues

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Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) and fellow Republican legislators for a press conference to unveil GOP legislation to combat racial disparities in law enforcement at the US Capitol June 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Senate Republicans on Wednesday unveiled their police reform bill, the latest effort by lawmakers to overhaul US law enforcement after relentless pressure from activists following the death of George Floyd.Here’s what the Republicans bill would do:

  • Encourage law enforcement agencies to ban the use of strangulation by tying funding to whether the departments have banned the practice “except when lethal force is authorized”;
  • Accelerate data collection efforts to track when an officer’s use of force results in death or serious injury;
  • Provide federal funds for additional training on alternatives to the use of force;
  • Include language recognizing the history of lynching in the United States;
  • Strengthen sanctions in the event of falsification of police reports;
  • Require law enforcement agencies to send reports on prohibition warrants to the Attorney General;
  • Create a commission to study issues affecting black men and boys

The bill comes a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would urge police to update their standards and practices and strengthen efforts to follow up on officers’ faults. The Senate Republicans’ offer is closer in some ways to the President’s action than the radical legislative proposal presented last week by Democrats in Congress.

Unlike the Democrats’ proposal, the Republican bill does not deal with the issue of qualified immunity, the doctrine which largely protects officers from legal liability unless a claimant can prove that their constitutional rights have been clearly violated. The Trump administration has declared the change in qualified immunity to be a “non-starter.”

The Supreme Court said on Monday that it would not hear cases involving the doctrine of qualified immunity.

The GOP’s proposal would also not end the use of drug-banning warrants, as the Democratic Bill does, and would provide new funds for police training.

The 106-page bill, dubbed the Justice Act, is chaired by GOP Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of three black senators, and supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R -Ky.

The bill “testifies to the fact that we think the overwhelming number of officers in this country are good people,” Scott said at a press conference at Capitol Hill Wednesday morning when the bill was announced. law.

Scott rejected the “binary false choice” between supporting law enforcement or supporting communities of color, arguing that it is possible to do both. He noted that on many of the issues under discussion, Republicans and Democrats are on the same page.

“I look forward to finding common ground” with the Democrats, said Scott. But he reiterated that the issue of qualified immunity, a stumbling block for many Democrats, would be a “poison pill” that would work to pass a larger bill.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Told the Senate later Wednesday morning that the “biggest flaw” in the GOP bill is that it does not affect qualified immunity.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said in a statement that if Democrats in Congress want to work “bipartisan” to push through the reforms, “the Senate proposal to study and report without transparency and accountability is inadequate ”.

“The so-called Senate Justice Law is not an action,” added Pelosi.

McConnell told the pressor he will take steps to move the bill to the Senate later Wednesday.

“Without Tim’s leadership, this would not have been possible,” said McConnell.

Efforts to pass police reform laws come amid a week-long protest that broke out after Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed in Minneapolis when a white officer knelt in the neck for more than eight minutes.

The murder, which was captured on video, followed the outrage over the deaths of other black men and women, including Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead in her own home when officers barged in. with a strike prohibition warrant.

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