Guest Editorial: Failed police reform bill is disappointing

Bipartisan congressional talks on overhauling policing practices ended recently without an agreement.

The failure to reach an agreement is a deeply disappointing result of an effort that began after killings of Black people by officers sparked protests across the U.S.

“It was clear that we were not making the progress that we needed to make,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told reporters last week. He said disagreements continued over Democrats’ efforts to make officers personally liable for abuses, raising professional standards and collecting national data on police agencies’ use of force.

Booker said he’d told South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the lead Republican negotiator, of his decision Sept. 21.

Talks collapsed despite repeated visits to Washington by victims’ relatives and the continuation of police shootings of unarmed citizens.

Booker said, “I couldn’t get to a point where I can meet with families and tell them that we were going to address the specific issues that were putting your family member in harm’s way.”

Scott said he was “deeply disappointed” that Democrats had walked away from accords reached on several issues, including banning chokeholds, curbing the transfer of military equipment to police and increased funds for mental health programs.

“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,” Scott said in a statement.

He said Democrats rejected a deal “because they could not let go of their push to defund our law enforcement.”

There’s no evidence for Scott’s assertions. The police reform bills under discussion were about police accountability, not defunding.

According to media reports, Booker called Scott to tell him that negotiations would be ending after Scott didn’t accept the final “bare minimum” offer Democrats had made.

The failed congressional effort followed high-profile police killings last year of Black people including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. Those killings and protest demonstrations in several cities that followed called attention to police brutality and the disproportionately high number of Blacks who are victims of fatal encounters with law enforcement.

President Joe Biden called Floyd’s killing “a stain on the soul of America,” adding, “We will be remembered for how we responded to the call.”

So far there has been a grossly inadequate response by Congress to the call for police accountability. We must continue to push lawmakers to pass police reform legislation.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

 

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