Bass: ‘Ending Qualified Immunity’ Key to Police Reform

Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that qualified immunity for individual police officers should be part of a police reform package currently negotiated in Congress.

Partial transcript as follows:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about the issue of reform. As I said, our poll shows a solid majority for police reform.The legislation you’ve been working on would institute many changes, including a ban on choke holds, no-knock warrants and racial profiling by law enforcement. Where do negotiations stand this morning?

BASS: Well, first of all, we’ve been having information conversations with one of the caucuses in the House called the Problem Solvers, which is a bipartisan caucus, along with Senator Scott and Senator Booker. And so I believe that we can get these. I absolutely do. What’s most important is that we come up with ways to hold police officers accountable, so we will stop seeing these videos, so ending qualified immunity, decreasing the standard that is needed to prosecute an officer, so we won’t see so many times, when we know that a person has been killed or brutalized, and then we find that they’re not even prosecuted. And that’s because the standard to prosecute officers is so high. We also need to raise the…

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just hit on…

BASS: I’m sorry?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just hit on the biggest sticking points in the negotiations, though, right now.

Senator Tim Scott, who is leading the Republican side on the negotiations, says lowering that standard for prosecutions is not on the table.

BASS: Well, we still have to talk about it. Oftentimes, people say there are red lines, I won’t cross them, and then, in negotiation, we find a pathway forward. And I’m hoping that we will be able to do that. But it’s also about raising the standard of policing in the United States. We have 18,000 police departments, and no national standards, which is why you see some practices legal in some areas and illegal in other areas. And so I think that that is critical.

And then, aside from that, when we do get the bill on President Biden’s desk, there will still be much more that needs to be done. We really do need to look at policing in America. And, so, we know that officers are trained to shoot to kill, but maybe much more emphasis could be placed on de-escalation, why some incidences result in people being killed. Maybe there were other ways to respond, other than firing.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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