Jan 30, 2023
Tyre Nichols’s Killing Leads Senators to Rethink Policing Talks
(Bloomberg) -- The Jan. 7 fatal beating of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers has led senators in both parties to consider restarting talks on an overhaul of US policing practices.
“I want to rekindle this conversation, and if others want to participate, they’re welcome as far as I’m concerned,” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Monday.
Others, including GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also said they’re open to trying again, after failing in 2021 to come to an agreement that could pass the Senate.
But the big sticking point two years ago — giving victims’ families the ability to sue police officers — is still objectionable to him, Graham tweeted.
“I oppose civil lawsuits against individual officers,” Graham said, adding that he does support lawsuits against police departments after instances of abuse. “I am glad to see the criminal justice system is moving forward and working to bring those responsible to account.”
The earlier talks came after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a White Minneapolis police officer. Those discussions were led by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, and former Representative Karen Bass of California. Durbin and Graham later joined.
But partisan divisions may be even harder to overcome now.
GOP Senator John Cornyn, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said he’s doubtful much can happen now that the House is in Republican hands and after a more limited measure providing de-escalation training for police officers cleared Congress last year.
“We’ve talked about the George Floyd Act for a couple of years, and that’s the only thing we were able to get agreement on,” Cornyn said.
Speaking on the Senate floor Monday evening, Scott said he blames Democrats for the lack of action, including their decision to block his GOP-only proposal on policing reform in 2020 that he said incorporated about 70% of what Democrats wanted at the time. He said both sides should come together on something that is comprehensive and can draw bipartisan backing.
“Yes, we need more training and resources on the duty to intervene,” Scott said. “Yes, we need more grants. And, yes, we need the best wearing the badge. We should have simple legislation that we can agree upon that has been agreed upon in the past.”
Memphis officials late last week made public a series of videos from the scene of the attack on Nichols, where officers could be seen pepper-spraying, punching and kicking the 29-year-old restrained Black man, and striking him with a baton. After the beating, several officers stood around talking while he lay motionless on the ground. Five officers, who are all Black, were fired and charged with second-degree murder in connection with Nichols’s death that came three days after a traffic stop.
President Joe Biden said last week that he was “outraged and deeply pained” after watching the video.
In 2021, lawmakers were seeking agreement on legislation that would limit the transfer of some military equipment to local police departments, set federal standards for no-knock warrants and ban the use of choke holds except in life-threatening situations. It also sought to establish a federal database to track use-of-force incidents involving state and local police officers, and would have withheld some federal funds from those that don’t participate.
Durbin said senators should try to reach accord regardless of what action the House might take.
“You know what, we’ve got to do our job, do it in a thoughtful, professional way,” Durbin said. “What happens over there, happens.”
Booker is ready to re-engage, his spokeswoman said.
“Senator Booker has spent the past several days engaged in conversations with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and is considering all legislative options to raise the levels of transparency, accountability, and professionalism in American policing,” Maya Krishna-Rogers said. “This moment demands action, and Senator Booker is hopeful that his colleagues will step up to ensure that Congress delivers change.”
--With assistance from Akayla Gardner and Justin Sink.
(Adds comment from senators beginning in eighth paragraph)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
What happens if you mistakenly get a larger tax refund?
Is your retirement portfolio ready for what's to come?
Canadians are staring a recession in the face: David Rosenberg
Canadians' wages kept growing in February: StatsCan
Travel stocks: Three hot picks from Michael Bellisario
What mortgage owners need to know about the Bank of Canada's rate pause