Democrats Ditch Effort on ‘Police Reform’ Legislation

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against a proposed government tax reform in Cali, Colombia, on May 3, 2021. - Protesters in Colombia on May 3 called for a new mass rally after 19 people died and more than 800 were wounded in clashes during five days of …
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The bi-partisan effort to craft legislation to reform policing around the country is dead, the top Democrat negotiator said on Wednesday.

“Rep. Karen Bass, who’d been the lead House Dem negotiator, said unions’ intransigence was one breaking point, but “It wasn’t like there was a big fight,” Politico reporter Nicholas Wu tweeted. ‘It wasn’t like there was a big rupture. But at a certain point, you have to recognize that you’re just spinning your wheels.’”

The Wall Street Journal reported on the development:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said Wednesday that he called Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) to tell him the Democrats were done negotiating after Mr. Scott didn’t accept their final offer. Mr. Scott’s office didn’t immediately comment.

The negotiations, which began early this year, were led by Messrs. Booker and Scott and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). A previous effort to pass policing rules had ended in partisan acrimony before the 2020 election, but the trio, comprising three of the most prominent Black lawmakers in Congress, had been optimistic they could come to a compromise this year by focusing on areas of agreement between the two parties.

As talks progressed, however, the lawmakers were unable to resolve differences over how police officers should be prosecuted and held liable, including whether to change or eliminate a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity that shields officers from lawsuits. Democrats favored more sweeping changes, while Republicans sought more incremental moves. Even the areas they broadly agreed on—such as limiting the transfer of military equipment to local departments and the use of no-knock warrants—ran into opposition when language was drafted, according to people familiar with the matter.

Booker said in an interview with the Journal on Wednesday:

The goal from the very beginning was to get meaningful reforms that would end the policing problem we’ve had in this nation for generations. But in the end we couldn’t do it, if you just take some of those issues of transparency, professional standards and accountability, we couldn’t get there.

The failure means that Biden will have a harder time trying to federalize policing with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the only tool he can use to regulate state and local departments.

The Journal reported that the DOJ last week issued a memo to stop the use of chokeholds, but it only applies to federal agents.

“Mr. Booker said he and Ms. Bass made Mr. Scott their final offer during a meeting Tuesday, a proposal the Democrats felt was the bare minimum of what they could accept at that point, according to a person familiar with the matter,” the Journal reported. The offer, according to a document viewed by the Wall Street Journal, included curtailing officers’ use of chokeholds, the one issue both sides agreed on. It also would have limited the transfer of military equipment to local departments and created a database of information about complaints against officers and their discipline.”

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